Access to justice for victims and survivors of sexual and gender based violence in Mogadishu

LAW works through two community led mechanisms in IDP camps in Mogadishu - an independent complaints mechanism and a civilian oversight board - to provide justice and accountability for sexual and gender based violence by supporting victims and survivors to engage with the formal justice system and by ensuring that the services they receive are trauma informed and gender committed.

Since 2017 LAW has worked closely with local communities and local justice actors in Mogadishu to combat sexual and gender based violence by supporting survivors to access the formal justice system and providing legal information, assistance and representation. First and foremost, LAW’s work is led by victims and survivors themselves. In April 2022, one community champion said: I was a victim of SGBV, and yet I could not come forward for fear of how people would react and what would happen to me. But the LAW team empowered me through their awareness raising and trainings. They trained us and encouraged us to be courageous. Now, I tell others to feel powerful, rather than fearful.

Built to break the cycle of victim silence, perpetrator impunity, and the perpetuation of the violence itself, LAW operates through community mechanisms which rebuild trust in the justice system to overcome four fundamental challenges:

(1) Social stigma: Public perceptions of sexual and gender based violence including a reluctance to acknowledge its existence, failure to recognize the gravity of it, and victim-blaming and shaming, which all contribute to its perpetuation and prevent victims and survivors from coming forward.

(2) Under reporting – ‘breaking the silence’: If victims and survivors do not trust the justice system they will not report. Adequate responses cannot then be provided, accountability cannot be achieved, and perpetrators are emboldened to act with impunity – to continue the violence.

(3) Inadequate response at reporting: Victims and survivors who do report are often met with indifference, humiliation, contempt, or even further violence, re-traumatising them and ensuring that they and those around them will not report in future.

(4) Inadequate investigations and prosecutions: Legal systems, from police, to prosecutors, to judges, are often ill-equipped or unwilling to rigorously try cases of sexual and gender based violence, in particular where allegations are made against security forces, cementing victims and survivors’ reluctance to come forward.

Quantifiable successes under this approach include:

  • 1,600+ complaints received; 75% of which relate to SGBV
  • 400+ survivors of SGBV received legal assistance, supported to file with police
  • 200+ convictions for SGBV related crimes
  • Significant changes in monitored police stations, including:
    • Detainees not held more than 48 hours without being taken to court.
    • Complainants are not forced to pay for food for the accused.
    • Reduction in use of inappropriate force during detention and investigation.
    • Detainees are more aware of their legal rights, face cleaner prison conditions, and have access to the redress mechanism.

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