Alert/CISP launch report on sexual violence in Somalia

New York, 30 October 2015

International Alert, in conjunction with the Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli (CISP) has today published a report on the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence in Somalia (download the report here).

The report, titled The complexity of sexual and gender-based violence: Insights from Mogadishu and south central Somalia is aimed at helping to understand some of the main issues regarding sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Somalia. It explores the linkage between SGBV and conflict, and analyses why, despite the current period of relative peace, Somalia, and in particular south central Somalia, is still witnessing high levels of SGBV.

The report will be officially launched on the sidelines of the 1325 Peace Forum at the UN Church Center in New York, to mark the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security. It will follow a panel discussion on engaging communities, specifically men, in promoting the rights of women in a post-conflict and peacebuilding context.

Ndeye Sow, Senior Adviser on gender in Africa, International Alert said: "Violence and conflict are gendered activities. As social actors, women and men in Somalia, each experience violence and conflict differently. This research shows that there are wide differences between and among Somali communities and international standards on what constitutes SGBV. While there are several issues to address, the contradictions and lack of harmonisation between Somalia’s three legal systems (statutory, customary and Sharia) makes it difficult not only to have a common understanding of SGBV but also to address it."

According to the report, sexual crimes in Somalia, as per customary law (Xeer), are not perceived as violations to an individual’s bodily integrity. They are rather perceived as issues of morality and honour – essentially, as crimes committed first and foremost against the family, clan or community. The research found that there is a wide range of forms of SGBV in Somalia. It also found that while some of them such as physical and sexual violence, including rape, abduction and murder are prohibited by customary law, the rules of conduct allow some forms of physical violence on the basis that they are disciplinary methods available to parents, guardians and men.

"What this research shows is that SGBV is Somalia is closely linked to power and deeply rooted in unequal gender power relations and social exclusions. SGBV in Somalia should not be categorised only as social violence. It has also been used in the context of political and economic violence by some groups to gain and maintain political and economic power."

Background

SGBV in Somalia is not a new phenomenon and should be viewed within the wider context of Somalia’s history and the continuum of violence experienced by the country over the past 30 years. Under the regime of Mohammed Siad Barre, President of the Somali Democratic Republic from 1969-91, rape was widely used as a weapon of war. Mass rape against women and girls was also reported in the 1988 uprising in Somaliland. During the civil war (1991-2009), violence increased with years of conflict and the collapse of the state and traditional structures. Somalia’s ‘post-conflict’ period has seen a reduction in the incidence of rape and sexual assault, especially following the withdrawal of clan militias from Mogadishu, the biggest perpetrators of violence. However, with the wider focus currently on statebuilding, and coupled with the fact that Somalia is yet to sign any of the major international conventions, SGBV is not seen as a pressing issue.

EDITOR’S NOTES

To find out more about the event and the report launch, please contact:

Pauline Skaper, International Alert, Somalia
pskaper@international-alert.org

Amelie Desgroppes, CISP, Somalia
desgroppes@cisp-som.org

For media enquiries, please contact:

Julia Karlysheva, International Alert, UK
jkarlysheva@international-alert.org

About International Alert: International Alert helps people find peaceful solutions to conflict. We are one of the world’s leading peacebuilding organisations, with nearly 30 years of experience laying the foundations for peace. We work with local people around the world to help them build peace, and we advise governments, organisations and companies on how to support peace. We focus on issues that influence peace, including governance, economics, gender relations, social development, climate change and the role of businesses and international organisations in high-risk areas. For more information please visit: www.international-alert.org

About CISP: Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli (CISP) is a non-governmental organisation established in Rome in 1983, to engage against the impact of poverty and denied rights worldwide. The organisation’s core objectives include: eradicating poverty; creating the conditions necessary for development; building paths for reconstruction; and providing support in emergency situations. CISP has been active in over 30 countries worldwide: in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The Head Office is located in Rome, with regional offices throughout Italy and its countries of operation. For more information please visit: www.cisp-ngo.org