For the longest time, stories of rape are prolific in Somaliland’s urban areas with the semi-independent state’s image of an “island of relative peace” away from the turmoil in Somalia. In the past, majority of rape victims believe that law enforcement authorities are un-willing and ill-equipped to investigate these crimes.
Commendably so, after a seven-year debate period, Somaliland lawmakers – on Monday, passed the first Anti-rape law, criminalising the violent act now dubbed “A VICTORY FOR WOMEN” in the traditional Muslim state. In the past, the local traditional law rewarded the perpetrator with the victim he offended which came with insurmountable pain and shame towards the victim. With the newly-passed law though, the rapist will be punished and incarcerated for up to 30 years behind bars.
In 2015, SIHA Network conducted research on the realities influencing the lives of women and girls in Somali-land, looking at the notions of gender relations and the inherited images of women’s subordination. The report, THE OTHER WAR: GANG RAPE IN SOMALILAND since being published has raised awareness and aided in strengthening civil society and government efforts to address rape in Somaliland taking into account the absence of justice and impunity for perpetrators.
With this overt victory for women both nationally in Somaliland and globally, SIHA calls on the Upper House of Elders (Guurti) and the Government’s final approval through the President of Somaliland to assent to the law and put it into effect as soon as possible, to have justice served on these perpetrators and vehemently deter others from contemplating rape against their fellow female citizens.
SIHA remains committed to reproaching all forms of violence against women and girls, recognizing the need for long-term, persistent messaging to drive change in Somaliland and the Horn of Africa region.
The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is a network of civil society organizations from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Uganda, and Kenya. Established in 1995 by a coalition of women’s rights activists with the aim of strengthening the capacities of women’s rights organizations and addressing women’s subordination and violence against women and girls in the Horn of Africa, SIHA’s network is comprised of close to 90 member organizations. SIHA and its members envision girls and women in the Horn of Africa with the right to live in a peaceful, just environment and the ability to exercise their equal rights as human beings. SIHA’s work with adolescent girls aims to address their overall subordination and exposure to violence, while investing in their potential and reducing their vulnerabilities.
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