July 12 (GIN) – Tens of thousands of South Sudanese danced and cheered as their new country formally declared its independence on July 9. Much remains to be done, however, to undo the legacy of oppression of women.

“The statistics of domestic violence cases are increasing,” said the minister of gender, children and social welfare, Agnes Kwaje Lasuba. “This is unacceptable and must be stopped.” She commented on a recent report of a girl who was beaten to death by a relative over a disputed marital gift.

“We have a lot of gender-based violence in the rural areas, where men still beat their women to instill discipline,” said Lasuba. “The government condemns such practices and looks forward to ensuring that those who commit such crimes are tried in court without delay.”

Lasuba was in Juba leading a 10-day capacity-building workshop on traditional beliefs.

The new national constitution provides for equal pay, benefits such as maternity leave, equal participation in public life, equal property and inheritance rights and the development of laws to combat traditional practices that are harmful to women.

Meanwhile, Northern Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Tuesday the north will launch austerity measures to compensate for the loss of oil revenues after the south’s secession.

North Sudan lost 75 percent of its 500,000 barrel-a-day oil production after the south became independent on Saturday. Oil is vital to both economies.