As reported over the past five years, South Sudan is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. South Sudanese women and girls, particularly those from rural areas or who are internally displaced, are vulnerable to domestic servitude throughout the country. Some of these women and girls are sexually abused by male occupants of the household or forced to engage in commercial sex acts. South Sudanese girls are subjected to sex trafficking in restaurants, hotels, and brothels in urban centers—at times with the involvement of corrupt law enforcement officials. Children working in construction, market vending, shoe shining, car washing, rock breaking, brick making, delivery cart pulling, gold mining, and begging may be victims of forced labor. Girls are forced into marriages, at times as compensation for inter-ethnic killings; some may be subsequently subjected to sexual slavery or domestic servitude. South Sudanese and foreign business owners recruit men and women from neighboring countries—especially Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Somalia—as well as South Sudanese women and children, with fraudulent offers of employment opportunities in hotels, restaurants, and construction; many are forced to work for little or no pay or are subjected to sex trafficking. Some traffickers operate in organized networks within the country and across borders.
Violent conflict continued throughout the year, increasing the number of internally displaced persons to 1.9 million and the number of refugees in neighboring states to nearly 2.43 million as of January 2018. These groups, including orphaned children, are at increased risk of trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Unaccompanied minors in camps for refugees or internally displaced persons are particularly vulnerable to abduction for sex or labor trafficking. Inter-ethnic abductions, as well as abductions by external criminal elements, continue between some communities in South Sudan, especially in legacy Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states. Traffickers subject abductees to forced labor or sex trafficking. An international organization estimated government and opposition-affiliated forces have recruited more than 19,000 child soldiers since the start of the conflict in 2013, and recruitment continues. The use of children in armed forces remains widespread and is on the rise for the fourth consecutive year. Government forces use children to fight and perpetrate violence against other children and civilians, or to serve as scouts, escorts, cooks, and cleaners, or to carry heavy loads while on the move. According to the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, signed by the warring parties in August 2015, SPLA and the SPLA in Opposition (SPLA-IO) committed to the immediate and unconditional release of child soldiers under their command or influence, to be carried out by international organizations. However, throughout the reporting period both groups continued to retain, recruit, and use child soldiers, including on the front-line, and evidence persists of the re-recruitment of numerous children. The majority of cases of recruitment and use of child soldiers were documented in Unity State, and over half of all verified cases are reportedly perpetrated by the SPLA. Child soldiers are also present within groups affiliated with the opposition; international observers verified instances in several of the country’s legacy states, including Western Equatoria, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Warrap, Central Equatoria, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal. During the reporting period, international observers noted an increase in the reported use of girls in both governmental and non-governmental opposition armed groups.