A 12-year-old girl in Somalia’s autonomous region of Puntland was kidnapped, gang raped and murdered, prompting demonstrations in the streets.
Hundreds of demonstrators, mainly women, took to the streets in Galkacayo town on Monday demanding the authorities use the 2016 landmark Sexual Offences Bill, which criminalises rape, sexual harassment and online sexual offenses.
Aisha Ilyas Adan went missing after she was abducted at a market notorious for rapes and clashes between militias.
Her body was found the following day dumped outside her home. An autopsy revealed she had been gang raped and her genitals mutilated before she was strangled to death.
Although four men have been sentenced to death by the regional court in Garowe, the public outrage towards the inept handling of previous rape cases refuses to subside.
Speaking to TRT World, Abdullahi Hassan, a Somalia researcher at Amnesty International, said gender-based violence including rape and other abuses against women and young girls is widespread in Somalia.
Women and girls in internally displaced camps are at heightened risk of exploitation and abuse. The recent wave of rape cases and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls, particularly in Puntland, has sparked a nationwide debate, with people questioning the government for not doing enough to implement anti-rape and sexual harassment laws and accusing it of turning a blind eye to the menacing rape culture.
The latest case Adan, who was just 12 years old, is a stark reminder of how the perpetrators of these acts of violence are acting with complete impunity.
One of the biggest impediments to prosecuting perpetrators of rape and other sexual violence offence in Somalia is the informal traditional courts where maslaha (an alternative system of dispute and conflict resolution) are used in solving domestic issues including rape and other forms of sexual violence. This age-old tradition of resolving serious crimes is tantamount to denying victims justice.
Hasaan told TRT World: “[There is] no accountability for these violations partly due to the breakdown in law and order, lack of properly functioning judicial system, and the use of traditional ways of solving disputes."
He added: "The maslaha system in most cases perpetuate a culture of impunity.”
The FGS and some regional states adopted legislations to improve their capacity to prosecute sexual violence. However, the impact and implementation of these laws, including the 2016 Puntland sexual offences bill is limited.
Following the brutal gang rape and murder Adan, several people took to social media to express their feelings.
Puntland makes history declaring rape/murder punishable by death.— Hodan Ali (@hodansomali) March 3, 2019
Somali parliamentarians need to pass Sexual Offences Bill that makes this the law of the land.
No more shielding perpetrators of such heinous crimes. #Somalia https://t.co/xZC7SrYRHh
What happened in Galkacayo is clear testimony of how deep and irreversible of #Somalia's damage.— Mohamed Hilal (@moh_hilaal) February 25, 2019
How can a person take a 12-year-old girl, rape and strangle her and walk freely in the city?#Somalia #JusticeForAisha
I hope it will shake things up. The seemingly never-ending violence against women and girls, where men can evade any responsibility for what they do, has to end."— Evie Mazzone (@Evie_Calling) March 3, 2019
Demonstrations have been held in Puntland and Somalis have taken to social pic.twitter.com/kPnJVAQyJT
Often a rape survivor is forced to marry their rapist to avoid bringing 'shame' and 'stigma' to the family. In most cases, it takes a couple of goats and some money to punish the rapists in Somalia.
Three decades of conflict and the collapse of law and order in Somalia have created a large population of displaced women who are especially vulnerable to sexual violence. At the same time, years of conflict has destroyed the health and justice systems, which are profoundly ill-equipped to support and assist rape victims and prevent attacks on women.
Although rape in Somalia has received increased government and international attention recently, the situation for women and girls remains bleak.
The government passed a landmark law in 2016, criminalising all forms of sexual assault, but Puntland based human rights activist Hawa Aden Mohamed wrote in her blog last year: "Not only have there been few signs that sexual violence has decreased, but in the past two months in particular, cases of rape in Puntland appear to have spiked."
Mohamed further wrote that a majority of the cases that her organisation, the Galkayo Center, has worked on involve members of the police force, military or marines accused of raping women and minors.
"Instead of serving as enforcers of the new law, these officials are actually perpetrators. They knew that they would not face repercussions, and some did not even bother changing out of their uniforms before committing their assaults," Mohamed wrote.