Somalia

Taking a Firm Stand Against Sexual Violence

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Mogadishu, 13 May 2014 - Somalia has begun to take concrete steps to combat the widespread problem of sexual violence; at the end of a 5-day consultative meeting in Mogadishu, the Federal Government of Somalia unveiled a decisive plan to deal with rampant sexual violence with the support of international partners.

The United Nations reported close to 800 cases of sexual and gender-based violence in Mogadishu alone for the first six months of 2013, although the actual number is likely much higher.

Speaking at the event’s closing ceremony on 12 May, Somalia’s Minister of Women and Human Rights Development, Hon. Khadiijo Mohamed Diiriye, said the government was committed to instituting protection mechanisms to protect women and girls who live in constant fear of sexual assault.

“This is a historic event and will contribute towards bringing about strong legislation to combat sexual violence,” she said.

More than two decades of conflict have left the country’s police, judicial and medical institutions acutely ill equipped and unable to adequately care for victims of sexual violence. Competing priorities, chronic underfunding and insufficient technical capacity have further compounded the problem.

Noting these challenges, the head of the UN team of experts on the Rule of Law, Innocent Zahinda, said gender and human rights protection must remain a priority for the administration.

“When you are rebuilding a country, the challenges are too many, the priorities are too many. It’s not only in this sector, you have the sector of infrastructure, the sector of security, you have the sector for education; Somalia needs to build schools, hospitals, too many challenges,” said Mr. Zahinda, pointing out that by virtue of women - who make up an estimated 52 percent of the Somali population - deserved particular attention.

The government’s is supported in its efforts by local and international partners. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) is coordinating technical assistance to the government as it puts together an Action Plan.

“We are working with them to provide technical support, we are with them to advocate on issues of sexual violence, conflict and human rights in general. So we are providing technical support, policy measures, policy-level advocacy and also, we are leading the international community that will be providing for this Action Plan for the other sectors of the ministry, child protection, human rights and other sections of the ministry,” said Ghada Shawgi, UNSOM’s Senior Women Protection Advisor.

Effective legislation, a shift in cultural attitudes and extensive awareness across the country were identified as key interventions in what is aimed to move Somalia from the top of the list of one of the world’s worst places to be a woman.