Two United Nations special representatives described the significant increase in sexual violence crimes in Somalia as “appalling”, following reports that it had risen by more than 80 percent in a country that has suffered decades of security, political and economic turmoil.
According to the site Wardheernews, said Virginia Gamba, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Pramila Patten, the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in situations of conflict in a joint statement: ” We urge all parties to the conflict In Somalia, we call for an immediate end to these violations.”
The UN reports that the past year witnessed 400 cases of sexual assault and violence against civilians, noting that most of the victims were women and girls, an increase of 80 percent compared to 2019.
Those reports documented more than 100 cases of sexual violence against girls in the first quarter of 2021, pointing out that the perpetrators often took advantage of the weakness of the displaced girls, and targeted them when they left the camps to perform some housework.
Insecurity… and the rise of terrorism
The report linked sexual violence to the conditions of insecurity prevailing in Somalia, which were linked to political tensions in the period leading up to the national elections, and clashes between some nationalities due to disputes over land ownership, in addition to an escalation in the activities of the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, which increased its pace with the outbreak of the emerging Coronavirus pandemic.
The temporary suspension of security and judicial services, not to mention the difficulty in providing services and assistance to survivors of sexual violence due to the conditions imposed by the Covid-19 epidemic, contributed to the increase in these crimes.
The reports pointed out that the violations committed by the clan militias nearly tripled during the past year, with the spread of individual and light weapons in the hands of their members.
In the vast majority of sexual crimes cases, perpetrators remain unidentified, perpetuating the cycle of impunity, which led the two UN experts to express serious concern about information that government security forces committed 15 percent of those verified crimes.
Gamba and Patten urged the Somali government to take concrete measures to prevent sexual violence against women and children, stressing the importance of the 2012 action plan on ending child recruitment and the 2019 road map, which outlines mechanisms to prevent sexual violence against children.
They also encouraged the government to expedite the adoption of a new national action plan on ending sexual violence in conflict situations and call on Somali lawmakers to strengthen laws to better protect the rights of women and children.
Patten and Gamba also denounced “weak legislation” that allows perpetrators to evade punishment while providing support to only a small number of survivors, adding: “The Somali authorities must send a clear and strong signal of hope to survivors and deter potential perpetrators and perpetrators.”