This is a horrifying story, but it has elicited a powerful response from women.

Source: Witness Somalia

Martin

somali protests 2

Gangraped by Four Rapists in Dhusamareb

Written by Super User Category: Homepage Published: 29 January 2019

On 23rdJanuary 2019, a video of teenage girl desperately begging not to be sexually assaulted went viral on social media. Few minutes later, she was gangraped by four rapists who filmed her while crying for help. The incident took place in Dhusamareb, the capital city of Galmudug state in Somalia. This case didn’t get much attention due to the fact that the girl belonging to minority clan while the rapists hails from power clan in the region. The incident shocked local community that women took the streets to protest against such appalling and unspeakable crime.

The police immediately arrested the four rapists, however, family members of the victim who were interviewed by one our paralegals confirmed that the case might be resolved through informal dispute mechanism and because of that they fear that perpetrators will escape from punishment. It is not new for the community to witness such atrocity being committed with total impunity. On August last year, a similar gangrape case  of 13 year old girl was documented in Adado city. Four perpetrators were arrested in police station for this case. Four days later, all of them were released despite confessing the crime after alleged intervention of traditional elders.

The informal traditional dispute resolution system known as “Xeer” which has been used in Somalia for decades to resolve complex issues between clans and communities has been misused several times when dealing with sexual violence cases. Rape was is one of the offense considered to be serious crime that cannot be resolved through this system yet the traditional elders (the main guardians of this system) have been using it settle between the two families. In some cases, survivors are forced to marry their rapists. And in all cases, more than 70% of the compensation meant for the survivors goes to the pockets of the traditional elders.

In the past two years, number of sexual violence has increased in Somalia due the ongoing armed conflict and increased displacements of the population (mainly women and children). The government has shown stronger commitment towards ending violence against women as one of its key and most urgent priority. On 30 May 2018, the Cabinet of the Federal Government of Somalia unanimously approved the Sexual Offences Bill which has taken longer than it is expected.

somali protests 1

The bill which is the most progressive legislation of its kind had gone through different consultative stages with civil societies, line ministries and other stakeholders. The fact that it was approved by the cabinet was a move welcomed and cheered by many women rights activists. It was a hope for thousands of young girls and women who are victims of the heinous crime on a daily basis. And it was the last hope for many thinking that it is time for ending impunity and holding the rapists accountable for their crimes. Nevertheless, all that was disturbed when the Islamic scholars openly denounced the bill saying “it does not comply with the Sharia Law.” These comments come at time when nobody takes sharia law into consideration when a young girl is raped or sexually molested. As matter of fact, only traditional elders sit and make unsatisfactory decisions over the fate of the victims and in most cases, get compensation in the name of settling the dispute through their ill-treated informal mechanism.

This gangrape and many other unreported cases shows that rape is still serious crisis and major challenge to women and young girls. It also shows the need for strong legislations such the sexual offences bill which criminalizes any intervention by family members or elders in rape cases. It is worth mentioning that cities like Guri’el where the latest incident occurs, services for survivors such as health, psychosocial and legal support are limited and if they are there, only few can access it.

WITNESS SOMALIA condemns the gangrape case in the strongest terms possible. Rapists should be arrested and prosecuted in a court of law. There should be zero acceptance of solving serious offense like this in the hands of traditional elders with their unfair informal system. we are all calling for all service providers who are operating in the region and in Mogadishu to do whatever they can to assist the survivor in getting all services she might need.