UN urges Somalis to step up efforts to end gender-based violence

Peter de Clercq, UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Somalia. Net Photo

The UN on Sunday called on all Somalis to take concrete steps to help bring an end to gender-based violence as annual 16-day campaign of activism against such violence was launched in the country.

Peter de Clercq, UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Somalia, said the Horn of Africa nation has made considerable strides to prevent and criminalize sexual offences and gender-based violence.

“At the federal level, the Council of Ministers passed the Sexual Offices Bill in May this year, a positive step in addressing sexual violence and strengthening the provision of support to survivors,” de Clercq said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

De Clercq said Somalia’s progress has included improvements in legal protection for women and girls in the federal member state of Puntland through the enactment of sexual offences legislation in November 2016.

The Sexual Offences Bill that was approved by federal cabinet ministers earlier this year awaits endorsement by the federal parliament, he said.

The UN official however said abuses such as sexual and gender-based violence remain a pervasive feature of armed conflict and violence in Somalia.

“Today, we call on the Federal Government of Somalia, the Federal Member States and all other national and international actors to play a vital role in creating awareness, providing legal and medical aid, and facilitating access to services for those who are the most vulnerable,” de Clercq said.

According to the UN, available evidence suggests that physical assault continues to be the most commonly reported type of gender-based violence in the country, followed by sexual assault and rape.

Those categories account for 64 percent and nine percent of all such reported incidents, respectively, said the UN.

The “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” is a global campaign which takes place every year and aims to raise awareness on the need to end violence against women and girls.

The campaign runs from Nov. 25, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to Dec. 10, when International Human Rights Day is observed.