The gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Somalia, which sparked outrage after a video of the alleged incident was posted on social media, will be the first substantial test of a law aimed at tackling pervasive sexual violence in the country.
Women’s groups have urged the authorities to enforce legislation passed last year in Puntland, the semi-autonomous region of Somalia where the rape took place. The law, launched in November and hailed as a vital step towards lasting change, criminalises all sexual offences for the first time.
Five men have been arrested in connection with the alleged rape near Galdogob, a town close to the Ethiopia border, last December.
Two girls were involved in the attack, one of whom was left one with serious injuries, according to reports. The 16-year-old girl, who was stabbed, remains in hospital.
A government adviser urged members of the Somali diaspora and others to report to the relevant authorities any sharing of the video on social media, which reportedly shows the young girl being tortured, stabbed and sexually assaulted.
Ifrah Ahmed, gender adviser to Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the Somali prime minister, said: “The federal government have condemned the rape and are requiring justice. This little girl is in hospital and there is a film on social media. It affects her dignity. I would urge Somalis in the diaspora not to look on social media and to report it.”
Campaigners have set up a social media funding page to raise funds for the girl and her family, who have fled their home. Mohammed Ibrahim Shire, one of the co-founders of Somali Faces, an online platform aimed at telling stories of Somali people from around the world, said they have raised £8,000. A statement on the site said the girl’s family had been forced to flee “due to fears of being ostracised”.
“They need our help to rebuild their lives somewhere else, so let’s donate what we can,” the statement said.
The case has highlighted tensions between “xeer”, the traditional system of justice used in rape cases, which allows perpetrators to escape jail by paying compensation, and the new Sexual Offences Act, which has introduced sentences of up to 10 years in rape cases.
Galdogob district commissioner Ayanle Farah Mohamed said the girl was being treated by doctors in Puntland province and the authorities were “very much saddened by the incident”.
A statement by the government’s women and human rights ministry said: “The ministry of women and human rights of federal government strongly condemns all rape cases in the country in general and particularly the rape of a young girl in Galdogob district in Mudug region.
“The ministry urges judicial institutions and national security agencies to bring to justice those who committed rape crimes.”
Hawa Aden Mohamed, founder and executive director of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, which is providing support to the victim, said: “I hope the community will appreciate the importance of paying heed to the newly passed Sexual Offences Act. Otherwise our advocacy efforts to have such legislative frameworks in place will be deemed useless. Laws are not laws if the people have no resolve to abide by them.”
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
A Human Rights Watch report, published in 2014 (pdf), found sexual violence was pervasive in Somalia, which has suffered two decades of civil conflict. Rape victims, about a third of whom were children, were unlikely to report assaults due to a lack of confidence in the justice system and fear or reprisals.