Somali women call for the swift enactment of Sexual Offences Bill
Mogadishu - Somalis today marked the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict with a call for the swift enactment of the Sexual Offences Bill that was recently tabled in the federal parliament.
The appeal was made at an event organized in Mogadishu to raise awareness about sexual violence and discuss ways of reducing its incidence, which is on the rise in some parts of Somalia.
Top government officials from various ministries, members of parliament, civil society organizations, religious leaders, students and internally displaced persons attended the function that was jointly organized by United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and Haweenka Horseedka Nabadda Iyo Nolosha (HINNA), a local non-governmental organization which supports victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
Speaking at the event, Fartun Hassan Ali, a Case Manager at the Somali Women’s Development Centre, noted that the current laws on gender violence are archaic and urged members of parliament to quickly approve the Sexual Offences Bill to punish perpetrators of the crime, which has left many victims traumatized and stigmatized.
“There is a draft Sexual Offences Bill now before parliament which needs to be passed into law to deal with sexual violence in the country. If passed into law, it will help curb sexual violence and there will be a reduction in the crime. Unless we get that law, there will be no change,” Ms. Ali observed on Monday at the event that sought to raise awareness about the need to urgently tackle sexual violence.
Mama Asha Shaur, the Deputy Chairperson of HINNA, echoed Ms. Ali’s sentiments, saying existing laws were inadequate and could not guarantee justice for victims. Many times, she said, sexual violence offenders have managed to walk away unpunished and continue committing crime because of the weak laws.
“Women often are victims of conflicts. They are intercepted and sexually abused regardless of their condition by armed men, and all this is because of weak laws. No one is doing anything about it. Often the offenders walk away scot-free, leaving the victim helpless. If the country had strong laws, this would not happen,” Ms. Shaur stated.
However, Ms. Adar Ali Mohamed, the Director of Communications in the federal Ministry of Women and Human Rights, said the government has taken positive steps to combat the problem. But she admitted that more needs to be done to eradicate the crime.
“Sexual violence has decreased but now we want to eradicate it. If we collaborate with all stakeholders, the civil society, non-governmental organizations, the relevant ministries and the police, we will be able to tackle this problem of sexual violence,” Ms. Mohamed observed.
Fardosa Abdi Mohamud, an UNSOM Women Protection Officer, explained the significance of the day and urged the participants to help raise awareness about sexual violence in their communities.
“The most important thing today is take back the message to the internally displaced persons camps and spread the message about sexual violence. Display the posters in your camps so that the people know the hotline numbers. No one should remain silent, and they should not shun victims of sexual violence,” Ms. Mohamud stated.
Ms. Ali thanked UNSOM for helping to bring together key stakeholders to discuss the draft Sexual Offences Bill currently before parliament.
The UN General Assembly designated June 19 two years ago as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict to raise awareness about the problem. The international day is also intended to honor victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world and pay tribute to all those who have sacrificed their lives to fight the vice.