The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2015/203) issued on 23 March 2015.
Sexual violence remains widespread across Somalia, notably in the south central regions, with increases in frequency consistently observed during military offensives, particularly at checkpoints. According to the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System, 2,891 incidents of gender-based violence were reported between January and August 2014 in Mogadishu alone. Of these, 28 per cent were cases of rape and 9 per cent were sexual assaults. These numbers are regarded as a gross underestimation, as fear of stigma and reprisals inhibits reporting. Most reported cases (81 per cent) involved internally displaced persons, who number more than 1 million across the country, with members of minority clans exposed to greatest risk. Armed militias allied with the Government and clan militias are also accused of forcing girls into marriage; 46 cases of forced marriage have been confirmed. Interviews with women’s groups in the newly recovered area of Hudur, in the Bakool region, indicate that forced marriage was common, as it was in other areas under the control of Al-Shabaab. Girls forced to marry Al-Shabaab fighters are often abandoned during military offensives, when the force retreats or when they are deemed to be “too old”.
Survivors are frequently forced to marry their rapists as a form of “restitution” ordered by customary courts. In the Puntland region, many women and girls subjected to sexual violence in displacement camps avoid pursuing legal action for fear of reprisals by their attackers. In the few cases where survivors choose to report, they are required to pay fees to the police to open a case file and to cover the costs of feeding the accused in detention. There have also been periodic reports of girls raped by members of the national army and police, which erodes trust in the legal system: data from the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System indicate that the majority of survivors decline offers of referral to legal assistance. Women and girls who become pregnant as a result of rape are often further victimized by their families and communities. Health-care facilities are limited, owing to the volatile security situation and restricted humanitarian access.
The main perpetrators of sexual violence are unidentified armed men, though there are also reports implicating the Somali National Army and the Somali police force, in addition to Al-Shabaab. During the reporting period, military courts sentenced a number of Somali National Army soldiers to lengthy terms of imprisonment and to capital punishment for rape. While efforts to counter impunity are critical, these trials have raised serious due-process concerns. Troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have been accused of sexual exploitation and abuse and the African Union has taken mitigation measures in response. In May 2014, the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development, with support from the United Nations, developed a national action plan to combat sexual violence in conflict. The Government also drafted a sexual offences bill. The United Nations is supporting efforts to ensure that domestic laws align with international standards and that initiatives to address conflict-related sexual violence are integrated into rule of law programming for the police and justice sector.
I reiterate my call to the Federal Government of Somalia to implement the commitments made under the joint communiqué of 7 May 2013 and its national action plan to combat sexual violence in conflict, including specific plans for the army and the police. I encourage the adoption of a sexual offences bill as a matter of priority.