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'A milestone': Somaliland adopts legislation outlawing rape

‘A milestone’: Somaliland adopts legislation outlawing rape

Activists welcome initial approval of law designed to curb rising sexual violence, but warn scope and implementation could prove problematic

By – Verity Bowman

Somaliland has introduced a bill outlawing rape, the first piece of legislation to address gender-based violence in the self-declared state.

Under the Somaliland rape and other related offences bill, all forms of sexual offence would be criminalised, including rape, gang rape, sexual assault, trafficking and child marriage. Rapists who infect their victims with HIV would receive life sentences.

Nafisa Yusuf, executive director of the Nagaad Network of 45 women’s organisations in Somaliland, said: “This is a great milestone achieved by Somaliland women.”

The network said the legislation is particularly significant given the rise of gender-based violence in recent years. Drought in the Horn of Africa in 2017 displaced tens of thousands of people in Somaliland and throughout the wider region, leaving women and young mothers especially vulnerable to assault.

The bill has been agreed in the lower house of parliament, but still needs approval from the upper house. It is hoped the bill will be signed by the president on 1 March.

“We are encouraging them [upper house] to approve it as well,” said Yusuf. “There is a very challenging and long way to go.”

Despite the achievement of getting a bill into parliament, Guleid Ahmed Jama, chairperson of Human Rights Centre Somaliland, pointed out that the new law does not specifically cover domestic violence or female genital mutilation.

He said: “The shortcoming of the bill is that it does not make lack of consent the key determinant of rape. The victim has to prove ‘use of force, intimidation or threat.’”

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