Somali civil society women’s groups have joined the global campaign for 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV), with a panel discussion on how Somali women and girls experience violence in the home and in society.
The panel was hosted by a group of civil society organizations working on women’s and children’s rights, with panelists from the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development, the Somali National Women’s Organisation, and the GBV section of the Office of the Attorney General.
Panelists also discussed the Sexual Offences Bill and Zero Tolerance for FGM Bill, which are currently going through a review process with committees in the Federal Parliament. Participants called for the endorsement of the two bills, to ensure prevention of violence and reduce practices that can harm women and girls.
The panelists highlighted that often GBV cases are resolved by traditional elders in Somali communities according to traditional systems of justice, with the result that cases may then not reach formal justice systems which could allow prosecution under Somali law. It was also highlighted that survivors of gender and sexual based violence may prefer to remain silent and not come forward for help because of societal stigma.
Speaking during the panel discussion, Amal Omar, of the Attorney General’s Office GBV section, said effective law enforcement and a legal framework on GBV were key to dealing with cases. “We can’t prevent or seek address crimes of sexual offences and prosecute offenders practicing FGM if we don’t have the right laws in place,” she said.
The event was held with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), under a joint programme on human rights that is funded by Norway, Sweden and Denmark.