The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2020/487) issued on 03 June 2020.

The protracted conflict in Somalia, coupled with the de facto control of certain areas by Al-Shabaab and entrenched gender-based inequality, have heightened the risk of sexual violence faced by women and girls, and severely limited reporting. In 2019, sexual violence continued to be employed by Al-Shabaab as a strategy of social control in the communities under their influence. Women and girls were systematically abducted and forced to marry combatants as a reward for fighters and an incentive for new recruits. This practice permitted recruits to enhance their social status by marrying women from more prominent clans. Many women and girls who managed to escape were subjected to threats and, in some cases, sexual exploitation, in refugee and displacement settings. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia verified cases of conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated against 220 girls and 19 women, attributed to: unknown armed actors (120), Al-Shabaab (26), Jubbaland forces (18), clan militias (19), Galmudug police (5), Southwest forces (4) and Puntland police (2). The Somali Police Force was implicated in 14 incidents and 32 cases involved members of the Somali National Army. Out of these cases, 78 cases (46 per cent) took place in Jubbaland State.

During her official visit in July, my Special Representative agreed with the Government to develop a new national action plan to end sexual violence in conflict, in order to advance implementation of the joint communiqué. Training on the prevention of sexual violence for Somali security forces continued in 2019, with 906 members of the national armed forces trained. In addition, 30 female police officers, operating in different districts of Mogadishu, were trained on techniques to investigate sexual and gender-based crimes. The national strategy to prevent and counter violent extremism, adopted in 2016, reflected consultations with women on their experiences as victims of terrorism and their roles in peacebuilding and reconciliation. Pursuant to the National Programme for the Treatment and Handling of Disengaged Combatants, construction began on rehabilitation centres for women ex-combatants, including those who have suffered sexual violence, in Kismaayo and Baidoa, which will provide them with counselling, education and livelihood support. Impunity for sexual violence crimes remains a major concern, with different legal systems continuing to operate in parallel, often resulting in the release of suspects from police custody following mediation by traditional leaders. The sexual offences bill, which would ensure that rape is no longer classified as a “crime against morality”, has not yet been approved. Following consultations on the bill by Islamic religious scholars, provisions intended to criminalize child marriage were removed. In terms of service delivery, the lack of sustainable funding for personnel in Government health-care facilities compromises the availability of assistance, including emergency contraception and post-exposure prophylaxis.

Recommendation

I commend the Government on its commitment to implement a new national action plan on ending sexual violence in conflict with the support of my Special Representative and the United Nations system, and call for the enforcement of the zero-tolerance policy on sexual violence by the national security forces. I reiterate my calls for the Government to adopt and enact the sexual offences bill, ensuring that any amendments thereto are in line with international standards.

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