Update 30 May 2018:Council of Ministers unanimously adopts the Sexual Offences Bill
“The most comprehensive Bill on sexual crimes, seen anywhere.”
(President Judge Vagn Joensen of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.)
Sexual violence remains pervasive across much of Somalia. Two decades of conflict and the collapse of the basic functions of government have brought about a system where women and girls, many displaced and living in IDP camps, are inherently vulnerable to rape and other forms of sexual violence. In recent years, the vulnerability of women and girls has been exacerbated by food crisis in the region.
Between 2013 and 2015, LAW worked closely with the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development of the Federal Government of Somalia to spearhead the drafting of the first Somali Sexual Offences Bill. LAW also assisted the Somaliland Minister for Labour and Social Affairs and the Puntland Minister for Women Affairs and Family Development in preparing their equivalent bills. LAW is currently in discussions with the Minister for Gender, Family Affairs and Human Rights about drafting the Sexual Offences Bill in Jubbaland.
An International Technical Review Unit (ITRU) was established to provide guidance in drafting, comprised of expert judges, prosecutors, investigators, police officers and drafters, was established to advise on the draft Bills and their implementation. President Judge Vagn Joensen of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, who was the expert judge on the ITRU, described the draft legislation as “the most comprehensive Bill on sexual crimes [he had] seen anywhere.”
You can Find out more about the bill in the panels below
What is included in the Somali Sexual Offences Bill?
The Sexual Offences Bill is a milestone in Somalia. Once enacted, it will criminalise a wide range of sexual offences. The Bill sets out clear duties for police, investigators and prosecutors and imposes penalties on those who fail to adequately investigate or prosecute sexual crimes, or who interfere with investigations and prosecutions.
The Bill also provides specific protections for vulnerable groups such as children, persons with disabilities, internally displaced people, and others outside the social protection mechanisms that exist within Somali society. It is survivor-centred and prioritises the rights and needs of the survivor during court proceedings, as well as out of court structures to protect their identity and welfare. The Bill envisages the establishment of specialised Sexual Violence Units comprised of specialised police, investigators, prosecutors and judges to investigate, prosecute and hear all sexual offence cases.
- The right to free medical care, including psychological care; and emergency contraception;
- The right to privacy, meaning that the court should be closed and no identifying information released;
- The right to assistance such as housing and livelihood support;
- The rights to initiate civil action
Children and people with a disability have their own sections and special sets of rights under the Act. This includes the right to specialised care and attention
The Bill also specifies that any assistance given to children must be done by qualified professionals.
The Bill lays out the duty of police, police investigation and prosecutors from the point at which someone reports a GBV case until the point that it is heard in court. The process set out in the Bill establishes clear referral pathways between each part of the justice sector. Non-compliance amounting to obstruction of justice is criminalised.
How has the Bill progressed in the different regions of Somalia?
What work does LAW do around the Bill?
Assistance in developing the Bills
LAW drafted the Sexual Offences Bills for the Ministries of Women and Human Rights Development and Labour and Social Affairs in South Central Somalia and Somaliland, respectively, and is the technical advisor on the Sexual Offences Bills for Puntland. LAW is currently in discussions with the Minister for Gender, Family Affairs and Human Rights about drafting the Sexual Offences Bill in Jubbaland.
Advocacy on the Bills
LAW has carried out wide-ranging advocacy around the bills. Examples include LAW’s 2016 high-level panel in Mogadishu, attended by over 70 members of Somali and international civil society, the Somali government, the donor community and the UN.
The panel discussion focused on sexual violence in Somalia and included the following panelists:
- Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia Mohamed Omar Arte
- Honourable Minister for Women and Human Rights Development Zahra Samantar
- Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) Peter de Clercq
- Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) Francisco Madeira
- Attorney General Ahmad Ali Dahir
- UK Ambassador Harriet Mathews
- Swedish Ambassador Mikael Lindvall
- EU Ambassador Michele Cervone d’Urso
- Zahra Mohamed Ahmed, Legal Advisor, Somali Women’s Development Centre
All panelists agreed that the Sexual Offences Bill was crucial, and must be passed as a matter of urgency.
LAW produced a series of advocacy materials around the Bill, designed for campaigners to use in raising awareness about the Bill.
Training and workshops
On 10 – 11 April, LAW facilitated a civil society workshop on the Bill. Participants from over 40 national non-governmental organisations (NGO) participated to coordinate their advocacy efforts to pass the Bill. During this workshop, these organisations identified some gaps and weaknesses in the current Bill. These gaps or inconsistencies emerged over and due to the Bill’s two year consultation process, in which the priorities of a broad range of stakeholders were taken into account and are now reflected in the draft legislation. Workshop participants agreed on some amendments to be made to make the Bill even stronger and more relevant to the Somali context. The suggested amendments are highly innovative and would make the Bill uniquely reflective of the Somali context, while remaining one of the strongest pieces of sexual violence in the world. The summary of this workshop and the suggested amendments can be found here.