You are here

Somalia

Somalia

Gender-based violence against women and girls is relatively widespread in So­malia.Decades of ongoing conflict, pervasive violence and insecu­rity compounded by influxesof refugees, massive displacement from draught and flash floods as well as deeply rooted gender inequalities have made wom­en and girls extremely vulnerable to GBV, particularly sexual violence. Female Genital Mutilation is almost universally practiced throughout Somalia with 98% of females in the age group 15 – 49 having been cut. 

Rape, sexual abuse and trafficking are often perpetrated with impunity by a range of actors including security forces, members of armed groups and family. GBV incidents are perceived as being a family matter. And are therefore mostly resolved by interpretations of the Sharia Legal system and/or traditional customary system (Xeer), with the empha­sis on compensation to clans rather than the survivors. Solutions, therefore, are often not in the best interest of women and girls survivors of GBV and can result in further harm to them, for example in instances where they are forced to marry their rapists. The majority of survivors does not report incidents of sexual and gender-based violence because of the associated stigma, fear of reprisal by the perpetrators and a lack of trust in a fragile state protection system.

Health
Justice and policing
Health

Health

Major efforts

GBV prevention and response activities in health services are inconsistent in the Federal Government State, Puntland and Somaliland. Most health services are provided in general hospitals in the main cities in Puntland and Somaliland. Health services are also provided in 21 special­ized multi-sectoral, one-stop GBV centres in the three regions.

The centres provide, at a minimum, ser­vices such as physical examination and urgent medical treatment. In some regions, these centres offer additional services, such as first aid psycho-social support, clinical management of rape, medical care for FGM-related com­plications, and referral to other services. However, mental health assessment and specialized psycho-social services are lacking in all the centres. Collection of forensic evidence is also not available in many areas.

Health services are often difficult to reach for women and girls living in remote rural areas or camps of internally displaced people. Moreover, the majority of survivors are not aware that these services are available and that they are free of charge.

The Ministry of Health’s prevention activities include awareness-rais­ing campaigns that place printed mate­rials in healthcare centres to inform survivors of available services. None of these cam­paigns, however, addressed the deeply entrenched adverse cultural norms that increase the risk of gender-based violence.

Survivors from communities of internally displaced people and minority clans are at risk of further violence and reprisal of perpetra­tors in health facilities. Similarly, service providers operate at their own risk after reporting incidents, as there is no legal framework to protect them. Therefore, the ca­pacity of health service providers to pro­tect women and girls and their own safety is very limited.

Summary of Findings for Somalia

The government’s commitment to address gender-based violence, particularly sexual violence, is evi­dent in a number of policy and legislative frameworks developed in the three regions of Somalia. However, implementation in the sectors is inconsistent.

Prevention and response services in the health, justice and police sec­tors focus narrowly and mainly on rape and sexual assault.

Services are free of charge, but quality and accessibility varies (they are most­ly provided by hospitals in urban areas, hard to reach for rural women and girls). Most survivors are unaware of the existence of these services.

The majority of police service providers discourage women and girls from pursuing judicial proceedings, instead directing them towards the traditional customary system (Xeer), with its focus on compensation to clans rather than on survivors.

Services in the health and social sectors are provided in 21 specialized multi-sectoral one-stop centres across the three regions of Somalia

The lack of safe shelters and economic enable­ment programmes impacts survivors’ prospects for a complete recovery, and makes reintegra­tion in families and societies more difficult.

After reporting incidents, service providers and survivors alike are not afforded adequate protection by any mechanism taking into con­sideration the influence wielded by clan status.

The institutional culture in the three sectors reinforces stigma and victim blaming, limiting the ability of service providers to deliver empa­thetic and ethical GBV care.

The physical setting for service provision does not meet the minimum acceptable standards when it comes to ensuring privacy and confi­dentiality, and is inaccessible to some at-risk vulnerable groups including women with dis­abilities.

Credible data on GBV at national level is not available to inform advocacy and national programming against GBV and sex­ual violence.

Continuum and characteristics of GBV services

Policy and legislative frameworks

  • Credible data on GBV at national level is not available to inform advocacy and national programming against GBV and sex­ual violence.
  • Continuum and characteristics of GBV services
  • Ministry of Health does not have specific policies to address gender-based violence, but a comprehensive system for clinical management of rape is in place
  • An action plan for addressing sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence exists. Sexual violence is criminalized and decrees and policies exist against female genital mutilation.
  • Standard Operating procedures and multi-sectoral referral pathways exist in the social sector, implementation is inconsistent

Specialized units/teams for provision of services for survivors of gender-based violence

  • 21 specialized multi-sectoral one-stop centres offering health and social services exist across the three regions of Somalia
  • Police and justice sector has specialized Woman and Child Protection Units or desks, but they are partly reported as inactive. Specialized prosecution and judges are not available.

Availability of Services

  • Mental health assessment and specialized psychosocial services are lacking in all the one-stop centres. Collection of forensic evidence is not available in many areas
  • Police and justice services for gender-based violence are available including referral to other services.
  • A wide range of gender-based violence social services is available. Formal sheltering services are not available; they are mainly provided by NGOs

Geographical coverage and vulnerable groups

  • Gender-based violence health services are available in all regions of Somalia, but exist mainly in cities (hard to reach for women and girls living in camps for internally displaced people or remote rural areas)
  • Police and Justice services are available at national level, but do not prioritize gender-based violence and are limited in some rural areas
  • Gaps in coverage of social services still exist, information about those services in rural and remote areas and among internally displaced people is limited

Accessibility of GBV services

  • Available health services are free of charge, but the majority of survivors are not aware of the existence of the services. Reporting rape cases to the police is mandatory in Somaliland, which limits access to services. The one-stop centers are mostly inaccessible for women and girls with disabilities
  • The majority of survivors is reluctant to report incidents of gender-based violence to the police due to periodic reports of girls being sexually assaulted by men in uniforms. Police often discourage women and girls from pursuing judicial proceedings, instead encouraging reconciliation through traditional justice mechanisms. Legal aid is free of charge only through NGOs in some of the regions.
  • The institutional culture in the sectors is predominantly judgmental, reinforcing stigma and victim blaming.
  • Social sector services are free of charge and provide access to judicial proceedings

Risk assessment and safety planning

  • Fragility or complete lack of protection mechanisms in all three sectors in a context of weak governance and rule of law.
  • Safety and security of survivors as well as service providers is jeopardized by social discrimination, dominance of big clans, and interference of none-state entities and armed groups in conflict zones (particularly for survivors from IDP communities and minority clans)

Privacy and confidentiality

  • Private rooms for interviewing survivors exist in the one-stop centres, but health facilities lack similar spaces for gender-based violence services.
  • Police stations lack confidentiality, privacy and ability to protect survivors from perpetrators, who are often released shortly after investigation
  • One-stop centres and NGO counselling services are confidential, culturally sensitive and human rights-based

Justice and policing

Major efforts

While there are a number of policy and legislative tools that mandate the provision of protection services to survivors of violence, the institutional culture of the police and the justice system is rife with the combined influences of customary and Sharia law, as well as the dominant patriarchal culture of the society.

In gen­eral, enforcement of statutory law dimin­ishes outside the cities, where localized law among clans and interpretations of Sharia law prevail. Previously established “Women Desks”, intended to provide protection services to survivors of gender-based violence by female officers, are reported to be inactive. Further, there is no record of specialized prosecutors or judges for handling cases of gender-based violence in any of the three Somali regions. ­

Free legal aid is provided to survivors of gender-based violence by NGOs in two of the three regions.  Similar government services also exist, but have to be paid for and are further obliged to report to the po­lice, which makes them less appealing to survivors.

Most women and girls remain reluctant to report incidents of gender-based violence to the police, preferring to resort to tradition­al mechanisms instead. This is often due to the social stigma associated with survivors and their families, the pressure by elders and district authorities to rely on Xeer (customary law) even in regions where formal judicial systems exist, and periodic reports of girls being raped by men in uniform. Other discouraging factors include the lack of confidentiality in police stations and the police’s inability to protect survivors from perpetrators, who are often released soon after investigation. In 2017, only 2% of sur­vivors of gender-based violence reported incidents to security ser­vices.

Recommendations

Devise and implement a national policy against GBV in service provision in the health, justice and police and so­cial sectors

Combat adverse attitudes of service providers by including provision of gender-based violence services in job descriptions and per­formance evaluations. Additionally, develop standards for selecting staff working on gender-based violence and assessing their suitability and readiness to work with women and girls survivors

Increase the number of female frontline service providers and profes­sionals in gender-based violence service provision across the three sectors

Upgrade service provision facili­ties to meet the minimum acceptable standards for interviewing and provid­ing services to survivors

Standardize SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and referral and case management pathways across Somalia and train frontline work­ers accordingly with clear guidance for roles, responsibilities and accountabili­ties in each of the three sectors

Develop protection mechanisms for both survivors and ser­vice providers that include risk mitiga­tion measures and on-call protection teams from law enforcement personnel and, as feasible, select powerful clan leaders or influential bodies