The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating, paid tribute to the victims and survivors of sexual violence in the country as part of today’s worldwide commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The day is being observed this year under the theme ‘Stop Rape in Conflict: Protect the Most Vulnerable.’ To raise awareness of the need to halt conflict-related sexual violence, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia is supporting an event organized by the Women and Child Cluster to commemorate this day – the Cluster is a coalition of civil society organizations working in the areas of women and children’s rights, and government officials are expected to attend today’s event.
The Federal Government and Federal Member States are publicly committed to ending sexual violence in conflict. Commitment is being demonstrated through the implementation of the National Action Plan on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict.
This year’s observance is being held following the approval of a Sexual Offences Bill by the Council of Ministers of the Federal Government of Somalia earlier this month. This represents an important step in preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict, and the legislation has been submitted to the Federal Parliament for further review and an eventual enactment.
Progress is also being made at the Federal Member State level. In August 2016, the Puntland President signed off on the Puntland Sexual Offences Act, a solid foundation to changing practice and attitudes to rape and other forms of sexual violence. In January, the ‘Somaliland’ Parliament also approved a Sexual Offences Bill, and the legislation only requires the signature of President Muse Bihi Abdi to become law.
“We welcome these positive developments and encourage Somalis to enact these pieces of legislation swiftly,” said Mr. Keating. “Far too many women and children are vulnerable to violence. Passing these bills is not enough to protect them. But it will be an essential step. It will also enable them to be fully involved in rebuilding security institutions and the constitutional review process.”