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Somalia: Women Shouldn't Live in Fear of Rape

World  (tags: 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', 'HUMANRIGHTS!', africa, conflict, corruption, crime, freedoms, politics, rape, Somalia )

- 1896 days ago -
New Cabinet Should Implement 5-Point Plan To Curtail Sexual Violence


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Kit B (276)
Thursday February 13, 2014, 7:25 pm
Photo Credit: 2013 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Nairobi) – Somalia’s new cabinet should urgently adopt meaningful reforms to confront rampant sexual violence, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Over the past year, women and girls endured high levels of rape and sexual abuse, including by government soldiers, in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

“Many women and girls in Mogadishu live in constant fear of rape,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The Somali government’s public commitments have not materialized into better protection for women and support for victims.”

The 72-page report, “‘Here, Rape is Normal’: A Five-Point Plan to Curtail Sexual Violence in Somalia,” provides a roadmap for the government and its international donors to establish a comprehensive strategy to reduce rape, provide survivors with immediate and urgent assistance, and develop a long-term approach to end these abuses. The report focuses on improving prevention, increasing access to emergency health services, ensuring justice, legal and policy reform, and promoting women’s equality.

For the report, Human Rights Watch interviewed 27 women in Mogadishu who survived rape, with some of them experiencing assaults by multiple perpetrators on more than one occasion. All the cases took place since August 2012 when the new Somali Federal Government took office.

The incidents occurred in the Benadir region, which includes Mogadishu, an area primarily under government control and where resources have been invested to improve security and rebuild government institutions, including the judiciary and health services.

Armed assailants, including members of state security forces, have sexually assaulted, raped, shot, and stabbed numerous women and girls. Women and girls displaced by war and famine from their homes throughout the country are particularly vulnerable to abuse both inside internally displaced persons camps and as they walk to market, tend to their fields, or forage for firewood, Human Rights Watch said.

Lack of justice for sexual violence remains the norm in Somalia, Human Rights Watch said. Shamso (all names are pseudonyms for security), 34, who was gang-raped in her makeshift home in a displaced persons camp, described to Human Rights Watch the pervasive climate of impunity that fuels the abuse: “They took turns. The men didn’t hurry because mostly women live in the camp and are no threat to them. During the attack, one of them told me, ‘You can tell anyone that we did this, we’re not scared.”

The United Nations (UN) reported nearly 800 cases of sexual and gender-based violence in Mogadishu alone for the first six months of 2013, although the actual number is likely much higher. Many victims will not report rape and sexual assault because they lack confidence in the justice system, are unaware of available health and justice services or cannot access them, and fear reprisal and stigma. When Human Rights Watch asked one survivor why she did not report being raped, she shrugged: “Rape is a frequent occurrence in Somalia. Here, rape is normal.”

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about one-third of victims of sexual violence in Somalia are children under 18 years of age.

While the government has pledged to “comprehensively” address sexual violence “as a matter of priority,” these commitments have thus far brought about little, if any, change. The new government needs to take urgent and concrete steps to address the pervasive problem of rape, particularly among displaced communities, Human Rights Watch said.

The government response
In early February 2014, Human Rights Watch met with various government officials in Mogadishu, including the new minister of women and human rights development and members of the president’s policy unit, who reaffirmed the government’s commitment to combatting sexual violence. In particular, the officials said they would be revising the government’s draft national gender policy to include specific provisions to address sexual and gender-based violence.

Human Rights Watch called on the Federal Government of Somalia to take serious measures to prevent security force personnel and others from committing sexual violence and to hold perpetrators accountable. As a top priority, the government should take all necessary actions to ensure victims who report sexual abuse do not face retaliation by government security forces and intelligence services, as occurred in three high-profile cases in 2013.

“Somalia’s government faces daunting challenges given the scope of the abuse and the extensive measures needed to address it,” Gerntholtz said. “So instead of targeting victims who dare to speak out, the government should focus on prosecuting perpetrators, including members of the security forces.”

Years of conflict have left Somali medical services and the justice system, including police and the courts, profoundly ill-equipped to support and assist victims of sexual violence, Human Rights Watch said. As a result, women and young girls face what the UN’s independent expert on human rights in Somalia refers to as “double victimization” – first the rape or sexual assault itself, then failure of the authorities to provide effective justice or medical and social support.

Maryam, a 37-year-old single mother who was gang-raped in her makeshift shelter, was the only survivor Human Rights Watch interviewed who attempted to file a police report. The police officers at the station humiliated her after she bled from injuries sustained during the rape.

“Before they let me go, they told me I had to wash the floor where I was bleeding,” she said. “I sat down, they gave me a brush and I cleaned the floor.” She never returned to the police station to pursue the case or report a second gang rape three months later.

Other women described the continuing economic impact that rapes have on their lives and how the government and donor community could help. “The challenge for women in Somalia is not just the violence,” said Sahra, who was stabbed and raped in July while collecting firewood. “Now the manual labor that I did before I was raped, I am not strong enough to do it anymore. We need more programs that give us capital to start an alternative business.”

Human Rights Watch called on Somalia’s government to take a number of crucial steps.

These include deploying a sufficient number of competent, trained police, including female officers, to provide security for displaced communities; ensuring that health and social services can provide adequate psychological, social, economic, and medical support to women and girls recovering from violence; and promoting gender equality through education, women’s political, social, and economic equality, and women’s political participation.

The challenges that the government faces are enormous and will need the help of the international community, Human Rights Watch said.

International donors have pressed the Federal Government of Somalia, including through the Somali Compact endorsed in September, to give priority to women’s rights. Donors have leverage and need to make it clear that supporting both short and long-term measures to address sexual violence against women is crucial for Somalia’s development.

“Donor countries should press Somalia’s government to ensure that the plight of rape survivors is a priority of reform efforts,” Gerntholtz said. “And then the donors need to step forward and help make those reforms happen.”

Human Rights Watch

David C (25)
Thursday February 13, 2014, 7:46 pm
AND women (and other underdog-groups) ought to get together, organize, and fight for their rights

Frackkkkk Patriarchy! -- the Mother of tyranny.

Namasté Gulabi gang and all who actually ACT and do something to alleviate this ...


David C (25)
Thursday February 13, 2014, 7:51 pm
> “‘Here, Rape is Normal’
Yep. Sadly & disgustingly, rape is 'normal', i.e. not at all uncommon, just about everywhere on Eaaarth, now. Mostly hanks to Patriarchy and Capitalism...

There used to be societies (now all but exterminated) which didn't have a word for 'rape', and where people found the concept of rape very hard to understand...

" Have you ever done the math on how many women who are alive right now have been raped? There are about seven billion people on the planet, so there are about 3.5 billion women. About one in four women is raped in her lifetime, and another one in five fend off rape attempts. So more than 800 million (*) women living today will be raped in their lifetimes. Let’s say half of those have not yet been raped. So 400 million women living now have been raped. This is larger than the capital H Holocaust. This is larger than the numbers of Indigenous in the Americas killed to steal their land. This is larger than the number of Africans killed in the slave trade. "
-- Derrick Jensen in his upcoming book " Anarchism and the Politics of Violation "

Past Member (0)
Friday February 14, 2014, 10:02 am
No being should be living in fear of any kind and difficulties of these women are outrageous. Bless them all.

pam w (139)
Friday February 14, 2014, 10:19 am
Good luck with this...sadly, there's not much hope for justice in that part of the world.

(And Derrick Jensen's statistics are truly horrifying.)

Phil P (94)
Friday February 14, 2014, 1:15 pm
The US and other countries disgustingly stand by does nothing but gives lip service against these outrages rather than cutting off all but the most urgently needed aid until the Somalia government, or whatever, they call it, takes drastic steps to put an end to the organized abuses. It seems nothing ever gets done in these 3rd World countries until the spigot is shut down to the gravy train that feeds the government graft and off shore bank accounts.

Birgit W (160)
Friday February 14, 2014, 2:07 pm
Outrageous. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Donnelly (47)
Friday February 14, 2014, 2:17 pm
Difficult situation--thanks for post.

Melania P (123)
Friday February 14, 2014, 2:27 pm
Yes.... No one should allow any type or rape, not governements, not individuals... This is not medieval times anymore!! Rapers do not deserve to live!!

Past Member (0)
Friday February 14, 2014, 2:31 pm
TODAY WAS ONE BILLION RISING, mentalities have first to change, as long as women aren't considered by men like part of mankind, they won't have any rights.

SuSanne P (193)
Friday February 14, 2014, 2:52 pm
TY Kit with tears from my Heart. I am glad to see David C copy/past what make my HEART IMMEDIATELY FLOW A RIVER..'Here, Rape is Normal’. I do appreciate the statistics you provided but feel the truth is it is much higher. MUCH MUCH HIGHER! We all know what is occurring in Somalia and many,many,many UNCIVILIZED COUNTRIES, (including our women in the USA- serving in the Military) and has been since forEVER (depending on which era and location)
When you watch documentaries (as I did on HBO a couple weeks ago re: this EXACT travesty-I cannot remember the name, forgive me?) and see the women speak of what they endured in will never be the same. It is shocking at best! I thank this org. and all who are attempting to change the History of RAPE.
Phil P~ I agree the US needs to put this a priority but if they don't care about our country what makes you think they will get involved as they have nothing to gain? SHAMEFUL! As much as I am embarrassed about the Hollywood lifestyle, there are good people with a platform that do accomplish much. George Cloney (sp?) comes to mind!

Nelson Baker (0)
Friday February 14, 2014, 3:56 pm

JL A (281)
Friday February 14, 2014, 5:59 pm
Thanks for posting Kit--thank heavens for Human Rights Watch and shame on corporate media for not covering such news.

Athena F (131)
Friday February 14, 2014, 6:32 pm
Thank you very much, Kit.

It amazes me how often I encounter people who believe that rape is "not THAT much of a problem". (I actually had to have a discussion with a TEACHER recently who seemed to be under the impression that girls are totally safe in this country, and it's only in third world countries that it's a problem. A Teacher? Who is responsible for teaching our young women? Seriously?)

I realize it's always an uncomfortable subject, so much so that people make horrible jokes about it in order to not have to THINK about it, so I appreciate when someone posts about it, to counter-balance the lack of media coverage it often receives.

I am ever thankful to everyone who steps up to educate with articles like this, or just speaks up in public situations when someone is being crass or ignorant and everyone else is far too uncomfortable to engage them in a dose of truth. Women have been treated like non-humans for far too long and the time has come for it to stop.

Kit B (276)
Friday February 14, 2014, 7:57 pm

As I have mentioned before, of every ten women I have known at least 9 of the 10 have encountered some form of sexual abuse in their life. This should be completely intolerable and yet we not only tolerate this, we shake our heads and think how unfortunate for them. We re-elected men and women that dare to question whether a rape is the fault of the victim. We also conveniently forget that almost half of the victims of rape are men. Are they too dressing in a risqué manner, are they "asking for it"? No one ever asks for personal harm, or physical assault. Rape is a crime of violence, not of sex, a rapist is seeking power and domination not sexual gratification.

We must change the way we think, the way we talk and double check our own actions.

Past Member (0)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 1:54 am
"Here, Rape is Normal"


M B (62)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 3:56 am
Can't believe that rape is normal "here" !!

Jaime A (52)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 6:36 am

. (0)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 8:49 am
Jeez Dave it's not only patriarchy or capitalism it's everywhere and has happened at all time among all nations just like justified murder [war] or slavery.
Rape is rape and it is unacceptable. BTW Mr. Clinton, oral sex is still sex regardless.

Marija Mohoric (25)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 10:02 am
Terrible, horrible, sad..

Theodore Shayne (56)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 11:58 am

Marilyn K (50)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 4:56 am
The men have to be educated at an early age as to the savagery of such actions. The fact that they have female relatives (mothers, sisters, nieces, girl friends) should matter to them or have they turned from human beings into mindless creatures.

Leanne B (46)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 3:21 pm
Just so sad and wrong.

Angela J (61)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 3:42 pm
Very sad.

Craig Pittman (52)
Wednesday February 26, 2014, 6:44 am
Our course our governments could flex some economic muscle to influence this horrific situation. Incredibly rape is still common in our countries. Bring in mandatory minimum sentences that place this crime right behind manslaughter in terms of severity in sentencing. Thanks Kit for raising this issue.
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