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Concern over bill normalising violence against girls and women in Somalia

Countries
Somalia
Sources
Plan International
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Organisations working in Somalia are calling for a rejection of the newly-tabled bill, saying that it promotes and normalises violence against women and girls.

Local and international partners working in Somalia, including Plan International, have expressed their discontent in the newly-tabled Penetration/Intercourse Bill, saying that it promotes and normalises violence against women and girls in the country.

NEWLY-TABLED BILL NEGLECTS GIRLS' AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS

The 105 NGOs operating under the banner of the Somalia NGO Consortium (SNC) said the new Penetration/Intercourse Bill will not protect women and girls against gender-based violence but rather neglects their abuse and right to seek justice for violations suffered, including rape, sexual harassment and child and forced marriages.

In their statement released today, NGOs implored the Members of Parliament to adopt the Sexual Offences Bill (SOB) which has been stuck at the parliament since mid-2018 following endorsement by the Cabinet of Ministers. This was after comprehensive consultations and validation with all the key stakeholders including women and girls themselves and religious leaders.

“I hope this new bill is thrown out of the window because it goes against everything we have been fighting for. It promotes child marriages. It promotes and normalises violence against women and girls in the name of religion and culture. Islam does not condone child marriage and violence”, says Sareedo Mohamed, Director of Gender Justice in Somalia.

The Sexual Offences Bill was developed over many years, consulting communities, religious leaders and civil society leaders resulting in a comprehensive Act which would ensure stronger protection of women and girls as well as ensuring all victims of sexual harassment and violence can seek justice. All Somali women and girls deserve accountability for violent acts committed against their will. The Sexual Offences Bill promises that.

PROVISIONS IN PROPOSED BILL ARE "SHOCKING"

“The provisions in the proposed Penetration/Intercourse Bill are shocking. The Bill totally contradicts the Constitution of the Federal Government of Somalia, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and international Human Rights Laws which Somalia has committed to uphold. It gives room for violations and abuse of women and girls. This is not acceptable,” Says Nimo Hassan, Director of Somalia NGO Consortium.

Through humanitarian, development and peace-building activities, NGOs across Somalia have gained a deep understanding of the scale of the violations women and girls face. Gender-based violence, including forcing young girls into marriage, is a violation of women's and girls’ rights is not acceptable. Protecting women against these violations needs strong, comprehensive and decisive laws.

NGOS ENCOURAGE PREVIOUSLY PROPOSED SEXUAL OFFENCES BILL

The comprehensive Sexual Offences Bill clearly defines and criminalises acts against individuals - and how perpetrators of such crimes should be held to account. Examples of such acts defined in the Sexual Offences Bill are rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, sex trafficking, forced marriage and unlawful detention for sexual purposes.

The Sexual Offences Bill also outlines sentencing for such crimes and states aggravating factors which would increase sentencing. For example, if the survivor is under 11 years of age or pregnant, or if the perpetrator used a weapon or is a repeat offender with previous convictions for sexual offences. In contrast the Penetration/Intercourse Bill reclassifies rape as a misdemeanour and removes punishment for other serious sexual offences.

Since the Sexual Offences Bill was passed by the Cabinet of Ministers in May 2018, 12 other bills have been submitted and passed by parliament – some in less than three months – while the Sexual Offences Bill has been ‘gathering dust’ and civil society actors have been waiting for the Sexual Offences Bill to be tabled and adopted by parliament. While articles in the comprehensive Sexual Offences Bill may be contentious to some, they cannot be fully debated in parliament until the Sexual Offences Bill is tabled.