News / Africa

Amnesty: Sexual Violence Endemic in Somalia

Displaced Somali women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual assault.
Displaced Somali women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual assault.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Joe DeCapua
Amnesty International said two decades of conflict have allowed sexual violence to become endemic in Somalia. The human rights group says most victims don’t report the attacks to authorities, fearing stigma.


Amnesty says rape and sexual violence are a constant threat in Somalia, especially for displaced women and girls. Senior Crisis Adviser Donatella Rovera said researchers spoke with dozens of victims, one as young as 13, in Mogadishu and in camps for the displaced.

“Obviously, the humanitarian conditions are terrible and the lack of security is very prevalent. And this is a particular problem for women and girls because they are very much exposed to rape and sexual violence,” she said.

The United Nations reported in 2012 there were at least 1700 cases of rape in Somali settlements for internally displaced people . At least 70 percent of the attacks, it said, were carried out by armed men wearing government uniforms.

“Perpetrators are very rarely brought to justice. Victims of these attacks are then stigmatized within Somali society. So the combination of the fear of the stigmatization and the lack of confidence that reporting their case would lead to any justice means that in the majority of cases the victims don’t even report the cases to the police,” said Rovera.

She said that police “do not have the capacity nor the political will” to provide the protection needed to prevent such attacks – or to bring those responsible to justice.

Many of the women who were attacked live in make-shift shelters, with just a piece of plastic for a door. There’s no protection from rapists, who usually attack in the night. She told the story of one woman, who has four children and was abandoned by her husband.

“She told me that she was asleep in her little shelter when a man came in. He had a knife. It was night. She kept quiet because he threatened to kill her. The children were sleeping next to her. He raped her and then he went away. And she told me that she had not told anybody because she was afraid that if she spoke to the neighbors about what had happened to her they would just laugh at her or say bad things about her.”

Amnesty International’s senior crisis adviser said a lot “can and must be done” to solve the problem. She admitted it’s very difficult because the government controls only part of the country. Many other areas are controlled by armed groups and militias, such as al Shabab.

“But certainly where government forces are present, it is crucial that they take concrete measures to first of all to ensure security – and notably, if we talk about the IDP camps, the camps for displaced people, where most of the rapes and sexual violence occur. And secondly, more needs to be done to follow up on those cases, which are reported,” she said.

Rovera said, “The inability and unwillingness of Somali authorities to investigate these crimes – and bring the attackers to justice – leaves survivors of sexual violence even more isolated.” She added, it also contributes to a “climate of impunity in which attackers know they can get away with these crimes.”

You May Like

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid