SIHA Network joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day on the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict this year. SIHA’s work in the Horn of Africa reflects the belief that sexual violence in conflict encourages urgent action to address the myriad of challenges associated with the stigma of sexual violence where impunity is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized.
The Horn of Africa has struggled with chronic occurrences of civil conflicts where rape continues to be used as a weapon of war, and women’s bodies as grounds for revenge and retaliation between different tribal and fighting ethnic groups particularly in Sudan –Darfur and South Sudan. The situation for women and girls in the Horn of Africa continues to be characterized by systematic victimization, subordination and their ill-fated subjection to violence, where rape and gang rape continue to dominate women’s lives in Somalia and Somaliland. Despite the fact that both Somalia and Somaliland have both tabled Sexual offences bills, the actions around the bill remain visible while women and children are struggle with violence and stigma.
Children whose existence originates from conflict-related sexual violence across the Horn of Africa countries are labeled as “bad blood”, “children of the enemy”, “Haram children”, “forbidden children” and more ill-fated names.
SIHA continues to strengthen the capacity of civil society whilst building in-country networks in Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia in line with our mandate in the region to break the silence on sexual violence and the underlying factors and effects, whilst empowering young people, men, women and children born of war, to realize their rights – all in order to build regional solidarity. SIHA’s intervention through the in-country networks continues to contribute to the much-needed socio-economic reintegration support aimed at eradicating the stigma, mending the social fabric and contributing positively to recovery efforts.
SIHA specifically calls upon the African Union through the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and other international actors to address the challenges of impunity through political actions and urgent review of current legal norms and protections within the international human rights framework, putting an end to sexual violence crimes and strengthening the overall protection of civilians in conflict areas, especially in the Horn of Africa. We also urge governments of the region and civil society to improve societal awareness and provide support to the survivors of sexual violence including children born of war.