Sudan's security forces have used sexual violence and intimidation to stop female activists from protesting and carrying out human rights campaigns, Human Rights Watch said today.
The powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) regularly detains rights workers and opposition politicians in Sudan but HRW said female activists faced additional dangers from the security services.
"Women engaged in these efforts are targeted with a range of abuses, from rape and rape threats, to deliberate efforts to tar their reputations. Their male counterparts may be less likely to experience some of these abuses," the New York-based rights watchdog said in the report.
HRW said it had documented more than a dozen instances of security officers raping or threatening sexual violence against women activists, who were involved in protests, rights campaigns or had offered social services and legal aid or worked in the media.
"Many women said they felt that they had no choice but to abandon their work or flee the country, leaving careers and family behind," the report said.
NISS officers were able to take advantage of "discriminatory laws and social conventions to silence" women activists, HRW Africa director Daniel Bekele said.
The report detailed the case of a group of female student activists from the war-torn western Darfur region who protested their eviction from their Khartoum University dormitory in October 2014.
They were sexually harassed and beaten by security agents, HRW said, and one of the group's leaders told the rights group she was detained for more than a month and raped before being released.
She has since left the country.
Sudan's security forces have wide-ranging powers across the country and its officers have been accused of abuses in the past.
It was not possible to reach the Sudanese authorities for comment but Khartoum has denied previous allegations of rights violations against its security forces.
HRW said that as far as it had been able to determine, no security agents had been investigated over allegations of abuse.
"The government's failure to investigate allegations of sexual violence and harassment contributes to the hostile environment for female activists," Bekele said.