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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid