The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2021/312) issued on 30 March 2021.

Protracted conflict, structural gender inequality and successive humanitarian crises have exposed Somali women and girls to heightened levels of conflict-related sexual violence. Al-Shabaab continued to subjugate areas under its de facto control using sexual violence as political tensions rose in the run-up to national elections. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) verified cases of conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated against 400 girls, 12 women and 7 boys, primarily attributed to clan militias and Al-Shabaab. While the Somali Police Force was implicated in 16 cases, another 25 incidents involved the Somali National Army. The Jubbaland security forces and Puntland forces bore responsibility for nine and five of the recorded cases, respectively. The remaining cases were attributed to unknown armed actors. Rape and attempted rape were the most frequently reported forms of sexual violence. Reports of sexual violence increased significantly compared with the previous reporting period, fuelled by intensified clashes among clans related to land-based disputes and the fragile security situation in settlements for internally displaced persons. While pandemic-related movement restrictions limited the ability of survivors to access services and hampered monitoring, most reported cases continued to be handled according to xeer, a system of customary practices that focus on the clan rather than the needs and rights of the survivor. In addition, judicial services, including the adjudication of sexual violence cases, were temporarily suspended. Although services were provided remotely, psychosocial support remained lacking owing to funding shortfalls. A paucity of personal protective equipment for shelter workers impaired their ability to admit survivors of gender- based violence. In response, the United Nations developed guidance, outlining models for remote service delivery in order to assist practitioners.

In January, the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development initiated a road map for a new national action plan on ending sexual violence in conflict, the implementation of which had to be postponed owing to the pandemic. The Somali Police Force, with United Nations support, is developing a discipline policy and a code of conduct aimed at combating sexual and gender-based violence. Efforts to reform the legislative framework have been complicated by conflicting legal systems. Legislators developed a new draft law on crimes relating to sexual intercourse as an alternative to the 2018 draft sexual offences bill. In August, UNSOM led a joint analysis of this bill, which found that it omitted numerous substantive offences, contained weak procedural provisions, and allowed for the marriage of minors upon physical maturation, irrespective of age, in contravention of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Somalia has ratified. My Special Representative engaged with the authorities to encourage the reintroduction of the 2018 draft sexual offences bill.

Recommendation

I reiterate calls for the adoption of the 2018 draft sexual offences bill and encourage the Government’s effort to initiate a new national action plan on ending sexual violence in conflict, as agreed with my Special Representative.

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