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
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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs