26 October 2007 Amid the chaos of fighting and displacement in Somalia, United Nations agencies are working to address the growing problem of sexual violence in the country, which has not had a functioning government since 1991 and where an upsurge in violence has forced thousands to flee their homes.
In Galkayo, host to an estimated 50,000 internally displaced persons hosts internally displaced persons (IDPs), victims told personnel from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of atrocities they endured.
“After years of war, rape has become a threat to women in Somalia when they move along roads, due to the presence of militia at illegal roadblocks. They are also at risk in IDP settlements located on the outskirts of towns such as Galkayo, which are too isolated to be secure,” the agency said in a news release.
It pointed out that in Somali society, where rape is taboo, perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. “Cases are usually dealt with through traditional means, with the attacker having to pay compensation to the victim's father or husband, but never to her.”
To ensure survivors of sexual violence receive support, a network of UN agencies – including UNHCR, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) – has launched a “sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response plan.”
Designed to be carried out with local partners, such as medical providers and civil society organizations, the initiative aims to strengthen health-care capacities, train local psycho-social counsellors and raise awareness about sexual violence in Galkayo, UNHCR said.