The Special Representative for Somalia and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) James Swan briefed the Security Council on the current situation in Somalia On Sunday 23rd November.
The UN Envoy’s statement focused on matters concerning the electoral process, security, humanitarian needs, and the issue of sexual violence in the country. On the latter point, Mr. Swan stated:
“I reiterate concerns over the recent increase in instances of sexual violence against women and girls, and over the regressive legislation relating to sexual rights and freedoms that have entered the parliamentary process in both Mogadishu and Hargeisa, and which contravene international standards.”.
On August 21st 2019, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, addressed the Security Council regarding the increase of sexual violence in Somalia. According to the SRSG-SVC, “The number of cases documented are just the tip of a deeply structural problem, with countless women and girls subjected to or living in fear of sexual violence.”.
Despite the perceived inability of both the central and regional governments to address sexual violence in Somalia, legislation has been drafted that would properly address and criminalize 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 Somali parliament convened on August 8th 2020 to discuss the introduction of the highly controversial “Sexual Intercourse Bill” which would legalize child marriages.
The Somali government is yet to acknowledge and address the growing number of sexual offences that are occurring in the country.
[Photo credit: UNSOM]