Last week, Hamdi was raped by multiple assailants who then murdered her by throwing her off the 6th floor of a building. Hamdi is the most recent in a long list of women and girls of all age groups who have been subjected to SGBV in Somalia, but we cannot let ourselves become used to this. We must remind ourselves and the community that the violent and torturous death Hamdi suffered is a tragedy and that this tragedy is the result of misogyny.
We stand in solidarity as women’s rights groups across Somalia take to social media and radio channels to call for justice for Hamdi and her family.
“Our demands for justice are strengthened by knowing that there are countless others who share this anger”
We note with grave concern the widespread occurrence of sexual violence against women in complete violation of their fundamental rights to personal security as recognized in Somali law and international human rights and humanitarian law. The ongoing conflict in Somalia between al-Shabaab and the government has led to an increase in SGBV, particularly against women and girls. Both sides use female bodies as rewards for service – al-Shabaab kidnaps women and forces them to marry fighters and the government looks the other way as agents of the military or law enforcement departments rape or harass women. Al-Shabaab actively demonizes women by promoting a misogynistic narrative, which falsely uses Islam as justification, while the government continues to stand by vague sexual offences laws and male-dominated justice institutions that create a hostile environment for survivors and provide numerous loopholes through which perpetrators can escape consequences.
With tragedies like Hamdi’s murder becoming increasingly commonplace in Somalia – in 2016 alone there were 7,200 cases of SGBV reported1 – it is all the more important that the Somali government withdraws the Penetration/Intercourse Bill that was tabled by the Somali Federal Parliament with provisions that are serious infringements on the rights of women and girls in Somalia. This bill is vague in crucial areas, which will allow for perpetrators to evade accountability and continue to leave survivors without justice and vulnerable to further violence and harassment.
We strongly recommend that the government instead, pass the Sexual Offences Bill, which was passed by the Cabinet of Ministers in 2018, but has still yet to be actively considered and voted on by parliament. The Sexual Offences Bill would lay important groundwork for reducing SGBV in Somalia by clearly defining all forms of SGBV as a crime and simultaneously increasing survivors’ protection and strengthening their rights throughout the reporting and prosecution processes.
We strongly urge the Somali government to improve accountability mechanisms through significant justice system reform, beginning with passing the Sexual Offences Bill and ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Maputo Protocol).
We further call upon the Somali government as well as the African Union and the international community to:
– Support the inclusion of gender equality and non-violence components in Somali school curricula and community-based educational programs
– Invest in women’s equal participation in all structures and institutions of society