Following the shocking incident of gang-rape in Somalia, which sparked outrage as the victim’s naked body went viral on social media; the Puntland Regional Government, where the incident occurred, has done its job. This week, the Court sentenced all five men convicted of the gang rape to lashes, prison and fines. Names of all five perpetrators were revealed with their sentence – for example Shirwa Jama Junle was sentenced to 200 lashes, a ten year prison sentence and a 4620 USD fine. Others were given similar sentences. The sixth man, who only engaged in taking the video, was released as the video was instrumental in charging the other five men.
However, initially, the traditional elders insisted that this case will be resolved through informal mediation dispute resolution – a common practice in the region and the country. Fortunately, Ms. Anisa Hajimumin, Minister of Women Development and Family Affairs of Puntland took a strong stand against the traditional elders’ decision and demanded all law enforcement agencies, Ministry of Justice and the President to hold the perpetrators accountable.
In wake of such a disturbing incident, there is still a ray of hope for future deterrence of such incidents. Puntland recently passed a law that criminalizes sexual offences under the Sexual Offence Bill. SIHA acknowledges the efforts of the Puntland government in this case and commends them for bringing justice and effective remedy to the victims i.e. a total sum of $14,220 is to be paid to the two victims, one victim will receive $6080 while the one who sustained more serious injuries will receive $8140. We hope that this case will set a precedent for future and pending sexual violence cases. Furthermore, SIHA hopes the Somali Region Governments will continue to enforce this law and bring justice to victims.
However, it should be considered that the traditional customary law is still a constraint in the effective enforcement of criminalization of sexual violence. SIHA noted in its report titled “The Other War- Gang rape in Somaliland” that traditional elders in most cases demand the perpetrators of sexual violence to pay a fine. This has led to a wide spread of gang rape across the Somali region, as if one or more people rape a girl the fine then gets divided amongst them.
Rape is a crime and should be dealt with within the country criminal code. Addressing rape through traditional elders courts is leading to prevalence of impunity. It is also important to note that this particular case gained a significant amount of attention due to the video going viral; however, there are many cases still pending that require the Somali Governments to provide justice and effective remedies to the victims.