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HRW: Somalia officials must reform laws to prevent sexual violence against women

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [press release] the Somali government on Thursday to adopt reforms to help prevent sexual violence against women and provide support for victims. HRW released a report, "Here, Rape is Normal" [HRW report], with instructions for the government to establish a strategy to reduce sexual violence in the country. The report lays out five steps for the Somali government: improve prevention strategies, improve access to emergency health services, ensure access to justice, legal and policy reforms, and ensure women's social and political equality. HRW also details the abuse happening in the country, stating, "Armed assailants, including members of state security forces, have sexually assaulted, raped, shot, and stabbed numerous women and girls." According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) [official website], there were at least 800 cases of sexual and gender-based violence [UN report] reported in the capital, Mogadishu. HRW believes the number to be much higher, given that the women they interviewed did not report rapes because they were so commonplace in the country.

Sexual violence has been an ongoing issue in Somalia. In March HRW reported that displaced people in Somalia face the risk of physical abuse and rape [JURIST report]. Earlier that month a Somali appeals court judge dropped charges [JURIST report] against a woman who alleged she had been raped by Somali government security forces and was consequently charged with defamation against the government. That ruling followed the recommendation [JURIST report] of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] to reopen the case. Last February Somalia's new prime minister, Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid, said that the Somali authorities would become more involved in protecting rape victims [JURIST report].

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