Somaliland passes landmark anti-rape law, women no longer obliged to marry their rapist if asked

Young women take part in an art lesson at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Mogadishu on March 24, 2015, where survivors of sexual violence can find refuge, medical care and support. Sexual violence is widespread in Somalia and rarely prosecuted.Young women take part in an art lesson at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Mogadishu on March 24, 2015, where survivors of sexual violence can find refuge, medical care and support. Sexual violence is widespread in Somalia and rarely prosecuted.Young women take part in an art lesson at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Mogadishu on March 24, 2015, where survivors of sexual violence can find refuge, medical care and support. Sexual violence is widespread in Somalia and rarely prosecuted.

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Survivors of sexual violence take part in an art lesson at a refuge in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu

BBC

“The self-declared republic of [majority Muslim] Somaliland has passed a law against rape for the first time.

In the past, rapists would be asked to marry their victims, but now they stand to face at least 30 years in prison.

Somaliland’s Speaker of Parliament, Bashe Mohamed Farah, told the BBC that cases of rape have been rising but he hoped the new law would help stop the trend.

Rape will now be treated as a crime rather than a cultural problem.

Traditional mechanisms of resolving such cases, which often favour the perpetrator, have now been banned.

Often the victim would be forced to marry the rapist and the families would support such a resolution to hide the shame attached to rape.

Most victims had no say, until now.

The new law comes after years of lobbying by children and women’s rights advocates.

Faisa Ali Yusuf of the Women’s Agenda Forum told the BBC they have been waiting for such legislation for a very long time.

Somaliland is also keen to be seen internationally as a viable democracy with working systems.

But implementing such a groundbreaking law in a deeply cultural society is going to require a lot more than political will.

There is no law against rape in Somalia.”

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