Somalia parliament is considering a bill that will legalize child marriage once the sexual organs of girls become mature enough. And, it will allow forced marriage with the family’s consent.
This bill is a rework of several years of efforts by the society to bring a proposed law to protect women and girls in one of the most conservative countries.
The Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Bill will be a major setback in the fight against sexual violence in this country and worldwide and has to be withdrawn, emphasizes UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict Pramila Patten.
Patten also explained that if it’s passed, this bill will weaken the protection to victims of sexual violence.
Will Somalia Make Child Marriage Legal?
According to UN statistics from 2014 and 2015, already more than 45 percent of young women in this country were in union or married before the age of 18.
In 2013, the country agreed with the UN to better their sexual violence laws and after 5 years of work, a sexual offenses bill was approved and sent to parliament.
However, last year, the House of the People speaker sent it back into a process which may have moved from the established law and asked for amendments, according to the UN special representative.
UN human rights Chief Michelle Bachelet said about the new bill that it risks legitimizing child marriage and other concerning practices and has to be averted from passing into a law.
A petition against the bill is already circulating in the country.
For the UN mission in Somalia, the new bill has deep flaws and they urged the parliament to re-introduce the previous one.
Something Has to Be Done to Prevent this
This one is pivotal in averting and criminalizing sexual offenses, said the representative for the UN Population Fund, Anders Thomsen.
Experts are also worried that the pandemic and the travel restrictions in the country have made violence towards women worse, as well as the mutilation of female genitals.
Unfortunately, nearly all women and girls in Somalia have been subjected to this horrible practice.
Sadly, around 68 percent of more than 300 service providers reported higher incidence of gender-based violence including rape since the start of the pandemic.