JOINT STATEMENT: THE SEXUAL OFFENCES BILL MUST BE URGENTLY REVIVED
The Somaliland National Human Rights Commission recently published the 2020 Annual report which sheds light on the human rights situation in addition to the activities of the Commission in 2020. The report specifically emphasises that women in Somaliland are often vulnerable to violence, and discrimination and gender-based violence continue to rob women of their fundamental right to live a dignified life.
The aforementioned women rights organizations would like to bring to the forefront a number of findings stipulated in the report particularly around different forms of violence against women and girls. The report specifically highlighted an increase in sexual violence. According to the office of the Attorney General and the National Human Rights Commission, it should be noted that in 2019, the number of reported rape cases were 138 cases across the nation compared to 2020 where a 4% increase was recorded.
Whereas Somaliland’s House of Representatives passed the Rape, Fornication and Other Related Offences Bill (Law No. 78/2020) in late August 2020, the women rights movement completely disapproves of the law because it falls short of its mandate to sufficiently protect survivors of rape and punish perpetrators. The Bill has been largely received as a colossal roll-back on the rights of women in Somaliland. Apart from the stigma attached to reporting rape – deeply entrenched in the Somali society, the report gives emphasis to the fact that often in rape cases, traditional leaders, businessmen, and politicians intervene and take cases out of the court to be resolved between families undermining the legal justice framework.
We, the aforementioned women rights organizations express our deep concern regarding the situation of women and girls as we know that they are facing increases in the frequency and severity of violence, especially during this period of COVID-19 where women and girls have borne the brunt.
In light of these circumstances, we seek an urgent multi-sectoral response and interventions to implement the following critical demands:
- The terminologies and harmful provisions within the Rape, Fornication and other Related Offences Bill must urgently be re-written into a comprehensive law aligned with regional and international human rights mechanisms like Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol);
- All perpetrators must be brought before the courts to face the full legal ramifications of their horrific acts. Holding the perpetrators accountable is essential for deterring repeated incidences of violence against women and girls;
- A strong grassroots and civil society-led campaign must be enabled to run including grassroots awareness-raising activities in addition to strengthening and harmonizing service provision for survivors of sexual violence. First respondent networks must be created in order to respond and provide services not limited to medical, legal and psychosocial.
- Strategic Initiative for women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA Network)
- Nagaad Network
- Somaliland Women’s Research and Action Group (SOWRAG)
- Alkownin Women’s Voluntary Organization
- Somali Women’s Development Association (SOWDA)
- Ubah Social Welfare Organization (USWO)
- Voice of Somaliland Minority Women Organization (VOSOMWO)
- Women’s Action Advocacy Progress Organization (WAAPO)
- Hargeisa Women Organization (HAWO – Group)
- Women Rehabilitation & Development Association (WORDA)
- Nafis Network
- Barwaaqo Voluntary Organization
- Women Human Rights Education & Environmental Association (WHEEA)