Somalia: UN expert urges greater efforts to tackle violence against women

 16 December 2011 – 

An independent United Nations human rights expert today called for greater efforts to improve the plight of women in Somalia, thousands of whom remain extremely vulnerable to discrimination and violence.

“While I support the Government’s tentative efforts to address the issues of violence against women, I note that there still are many challenges for the full and effective participation of women in the political process,” said Rashida Manjoo, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

“Violence against women is a manifestation of inequality and discrimination which cannot be addressed in isolation of the historical and current context.” 

During her eight-day mission, Ms. Manjoo met with UN and international agencies based in Nairobi, and then travelled to Garowe in Puntland and Mogadishu, the Somali capital, to meet with Government officials and representatives of the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) and civil society.

She also visited camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and police stations, and talked with individual victims of gender-based violence.

Ms. Manjoo noted the lack of substantive reporting of violence against women and girls, and the absence of proper statistics and data, by the authorities, international agencies and civil society.

“The absence of accountability mechanisms and specialized services for women and girl victims of various forms of violence, also contributes to such invisibility and silencing.”

Somalia is also not immune to the problem of domestic violence, the most pervasive form of violence against women, the expert said, adding that the problem is exacerbated by the internal conflict, the displacement of populations and non-functioning State authorities.

“In the absence of accountability mechanisms, impunity for acts of violence against women and girls is the norm. Furthermore, the use of traditional dispute forums to resolve issues of violence against women results in little or no justice for such victims.”

Ms. Manjoo stressed that Somalia currently has an opportunity to promote human rights for all, and to place the issue of violence against women on the national agenda.

“I call on all stakeholders to take on the responsibility to make this a reality,” stated the expert, who reports in an independent and unpaid capacity to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Her full report on Somalia will be submitted to the Council next June.

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2 thoughts on “Somalia: UN expert urges greater efforts to tackle violence against women

  1. sctu

    UN Denounces ‘Privatization’ of Violence Against Somali Women

    The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Rashida Manjoo spoke to reporters in Nairobi Friday about her just-concluded mission to Somalia, where she examined the occurrence of gender-based violence there.

    One of the things that struck Manjoo during her 10-day mission was what she called the “privatization” of violence against women and girls in the wider Somali society.

    She noted that a lot of attention has been paid to sexual violence occurring within camps for the internally displaced.

    “But I also know there is rape going on outside the IDP camps in the host communities,” Manjoo said. “There might be a culture of silence and denial about it, but it is going on. Domestic violence is going on. I think the challenge is, how do we break silence, how do we move away from denial that there is a problem?”

    In the rush to publicize the latest political and military machinations of the 20-year-old civil war, Manjoo said most media, agencies, governments and others ignore the lives of women behind closed doors.

    For instance, she cited one study that estimates that 98 percent of Somali girls and women undergo female genital mutilation – a cultural practice being increasingly banned across Africa – in the mistaken belief that it is a religious requirement.

    Other cultural and traditional beliefs facilitate or even encourage physical, emotional, and sexual violence against women and girls in homes in Somalia and around the world.

    But, Manjoo said, in a volatile country where infrastructure and functioning state institutions basically do not exist, finding out the nature and prevalence of different forms of gender-based violence is daunting.

    “The Somali government will need data, will need information in terms of its priorities when it comes to laws and policies and programs,” she noted. “In the absence of that, how will they develop laws, policies, and programs? How will they know what they need?”

    She added that Somali authorities have taken some measures, such as a draft law against female genital mutilation in the Puntland region, the creation of a task force on gender-based violence by the transitional government, and the appointment of women as ministers and members of parliament.

    She said the government and other national and international agencies have a long way to go in assisting women and girls experiencing violence, or even giving them a safe forum in which to express themselves.

    Manjoo said the lack of attention being paid to domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, and other forms of gender-based violence occurring in homes has lead to impunity, which only perpetuates the problem.

    “Let me stress that the current manifestations of violence against women and girls is a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women. Somalia has the opportunity at this crucial time to promote human rights for all, and importantly to place the issue of violence against women on the national agenda,” she said.

    Manjoo’s Somalia tour ran from December 9 -16 and included consultations with officials from the transitional government, U.N. agencies, international aid groups, African Union peacekeeping troops, and civil society groups.

    She is expected to present her findings in a report set to be released in June 2012 to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

  2. sctu

    16 Days Activism On Violence Against Women
    Every year women world over mark the 16 Days activism on violence against women. It is an international campaign started by the Centre for Women’s Global leadership (CWGL) in 1991. It runs from November 25, International Day of Violence Against Women to December 10, International Human Rights Day to symbolically link violence against women and human rights.

    This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates, including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre in 1989 when 14 students (Women ) were massacred by a lone gun-man opposed to the affirmative action policies promoted by feminists at the University of Montreal Canada.

    The 16 Days of Activism focuses on: raising awareness at the local, national, regional and international levels about gender-based violence, strengthening local work, linking local and global work, providing a forum for dialogue and strategy-sharing, pressuring governments to implement commitments made in national and international legal instruments and demonstrating the solidarity of activists around the world.

    The campaign theme for 2011 is “from Peace in the Home to Peace in the world, Let’s challenge Militarism and end violence Against Women”

    Violence against women happens in various forms and patterns ranging from psychological, physical, social , emotional to economic violations .It can happen once or become a habit and the victim may remain silent without letting anyone know either out of fear or shame. It can be committed by a trusted person or total stranger to the victim. It can even be a blood relative.

    Recent cases include that of a 22 year old engineering student of University of Technology Yola, who was bathed by acid by a fellow student for refusing his sexual advances. The poor girl still needs 10 million naira for more surgeries for her to look a little human and ASUU has been making appeals on her behalf.

    Another was that of a policemen who raped a three year old daughter of his neighbour.Another much celebrated case recently is that of the student of Abia State University who was not only gang raped but the video of it was pasted on you-tube on the internet for the world to view, among thousand other cases.

    Minister of Women and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina at the interactive session she had with law enforcement officers to mark the event in Abuja said , violence against women and girls is an unacceptable reality which needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

    She said the incidence of rape has increased in recent times affecting a cross section of the womenfolk ranging from children as early as six months to the elderly as old as 70 years adding that Violence against women whether in war time or at peace time is harmful to our national development.

    She said though both men and women are victims of violence in an increasingly violent world , the forms of violence experienced by women and girls include acts that entail specific assaults on their sexuality some of which include female genital mutilation, harmful delivery and widowhood practices, male child preference, early marriage among others.

    The minister said one of the basic challenges to eliminating gender based violence is the non availability of appropriate penalties in existing legislation to deter perpetrators adding that the availability of a coherent law on gender based violence( GBV) will enable appropriate enforcement and ultimately reduce its incidence.

    Maina said it was necessary to dialogue with law enforcement agencies because of their roles in enforcing existing regulations on GBV as well as being the first point of contact with its victims in order to improve the enforcement laws, enhance the handling of victims and to solicit their commitment in disseminating the message of reducing it among the populace .

    Similarly, at another event to mark the event organized by the UN Women , Country Representative of UN women, Mrs Grace Ongile , who represented the UN Resident Coordinator Mr Dauda Toure at the event said globally , 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime . “Worldwide , up to six in ten women have suffered physical or sexual violence in their life time. Over 60 million girls are child brides and some 100 to 140 million girls have experienced female genital mutilation or cutting.

    More than 100 million girls are ‘missing’ due to prenatal sex selection and a preference for sons . More than 600, 000 women and girls are trafficked across borders each year, the vast majority for sexual exploitation.” She explained.

    She said, “Violence against women remains one of the most widespread human rights violations yet one of the least prosecuted crimes. Although equality between women and men is guaranteed in the constitutions of 139 countries and territories, all too often are denied justice and protection form violence . This failure does not stem from a lack of knowledge but rather a lack of investment and political will to meet women’s needs and to protect their fundamental rights. It is time for governments to take responsibility.”

    Some of the 16 steps to end violence against women outlined by the UN Women Executive Director include : Ratify international and regional treaties, adopt and enforce laws, make justice accessible to women and girls , end impunity towards conflict-related sexual violence, increase public awareness and social mobilization, among others.

    Prof. Chidi Odinkalu of the Human Rights Commission in his speech said Violence against women kills and those who survive it, their lives are ruined.

    ” Those who beat up their spouses or partners are not husbands, wives or lovers , but criminals and we should develop a mechanism to keep them away. ” He said.

    He said victims of sexual violence do not take police into confidence or make reports because many of our police force are predatory as the police men themselves rape women and sometime with different kind of things like using batons.

    Women Minister , Hajiya Zainab Maina who was also there at the event decried the culture of silence on rape cases saying there is need for it to be broken. She said there is need to sensitize people on the need to report rape cases. She said on hearing about the Abia rape case, she sent people to the state to trace the victim but they couldn’t trace her possibly because the girl and her family are afraid that making it public knowledge may give her a stigma , and affect her getting married in future. She said a law on VAW when enacted will prescribe punishment for the offenders and encourage victims to come out and expose their attackers.

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