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Somalia’s law courts receive praise for prescribing tough penalties for Gender Based Violence, as youth engage in the preventative measures

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Mogadishu 31 January 2017 – A recent landmark ruling by a special court in Galdogob, in Somalia’s Puntland state, in which five men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to ten years, for gang raping a teenage girl and badly beating up another, is a precedent setting ruling that many Somalis hope will deter more cases of sexual violence in the country.

The convictions have brought hope to a country with widespread cases of sexual violence, mostly targeted at young girls and women, majority of which are never documented.

In the capital city Mogadishu on Monday, the Galdogob conviction was the highlight of a brainstorm, at a workshop on the prevention of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

“We are disturbed by the misfortune that befell the girls, the rape ordeal and video that went viral on social media. We are not ready to see a repeat of such an incident,”Fartun Ahmed Omar, the Chairperson of the Somali Women’s Encouragement Centre, that provides life skills to young girls, said.

Fartun hopes to share learnings from the workshop with 190 girls at her center, based in the capital.

Forty-five youths drawn from various districts of Banaadir region, attended the two day sensitization workshop organized by IFRAH Foundation and supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and whose aim was to empower young people to speak out against such forms of violence.

“We don’t know where to seek help when incidents occur, but we are learning in this workshop how and where to get help from,” Fardowsa Hussein Ali, a youth participant said.

Another participant, university student Abdulle Baryare Farah, urged fellow youth to be proactive in stemming the rising cases of sexual and gender based violence.

“We are focusing on the prevention of human rights violations across the country and we hope that our judicial institutions will be equipped with adequate investigative tools, to help them administer justice, in cases of sexual violence,” he stated.

The workshop encouraged youth to create safer communities for women and girls, through the transformation of harmful social norms that contribute to sexual violence.

“Since you are the youth who have access to public places, you need to spread the message and sensitize the community face to face by holding group discussions and forums,” Attorney General Dr. Ahmed Ali Dahir told the youth, during the official opening of the meeting.

“The impact will be huge compared to the radio. The message must reach the communities,” he added.

The brainchild of Ifrah Ahmed, the founder of Ifrah Foundation, the youth workshop furthers the gains made during the 16 Days of Activism Against Sexual and Gender Based Violence held in December 2016.

“In the last workshop, the youth were asked how they want their town to look like. The issues that were widely discussed included how an individual can get his rights, strengthening security and access to education for all. Today I am very pleased with the constant support that we are receiving from AMISOM, to further our goals,” Ifrah noted.

The Deputy AU Special Representative for Somalia Honourable Lydia Wanyoto stressed the importance of the youth sensitization workshops.

She said, “Human rights realisation, prevention in response to SGBV is part of the peacebuilding and stabilisation process here in Somalia.”

She also lauded progress made by the country in the protection and observance of human rights.

“Somalia is making tremendous progress towards sustainable peace and security, realising human rights and prevention of SGBV,” she noted.

Available statistics show increased Gender Based Violence in Somalia emerging from conflict, forced evictions and displacements, with women being the most affected. The violations have been aggravated by a weak rule of law and lack of fair trial.