Since the beginning of 2019, media reports of young girls being raped and murdered have become increasingly more common in Somalia. Although still under-reported, the prevalence of brutal gang-rapes has mobilized both traditional and social media to highlight rape and murder cases.
In February alone, there were two cases of rape and murder that were reported in the town of Galkayo in the Puntland region of Somalia. The first victim, who was not identified by local media, was 16-years-old and the second victim, Aisha Ilyas Aden, was 12-years-old.
On May 29th, a 9-year-old child was gang-raped in the town of Bulo-Burde in Hiiraan. The only media coverage this received was a UNFPA statement condemning the rape and the subsequent articles written about the statement. On the 20th of June, reports surfaced on social media stating that Najmo Hassan, a 12-year-old, was gang-raped and died as a result of this in Garowe, Puntland.
Despite the perceived inability of both the central and regional governments to address sexual violence in Somalia, there is legislation in place specifically targeted towards criminalizing sexual offences such as rape and gender-based violence. On 30th May 2018, the Council of Ministers in Somalia unanimously adopted the Sexual Offences Bill. Although a significant milestone, the law still awaits approval from parliament. Both Somaliland and Puntland have also passed bills criminalizing rape.
However, the presence of legislation does not always guarantee justice for victims. A rape victim in Somaliland was sentenced to flogging, due to the fact that she was not believed by the police when she reported the rape. The sentencing was eventually overturned and a retrial was ordered, possibly due to the media attention that the case garnered.
There are countless other rape cases that have never been reported by the media. Since safeguarding the privacy of victims is an ethical issue, survivors of rape rarely make the news. It is only when young girls are brutally murdered that a call for action and/or condemnations are made by the general public, governments and international organizations. Allegations of sexual violence must be given the priority that they deserve in order to ensure its eradication in Somalia.