In the News

Puntland pioneering a law against sexual offences

16 December 2016
The launch of the sexual offences law

National authorities in the Puntland State of Somalia, led by the Ministry of Justice and Religious Affairs (MoJRAR), on November 29, 2016 launched the first ever Sexual Offences Law criminalizing all sexual offences in the region. The launching ceremony was conducted in collaboration with UNFPA, UNDP and the Swedish Embassy to Somalia.

The new law criminalises various sexual offences including gang rape, sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, sexual offences involving the Internet and indecent exposure of genital organs in public places. The new Sexual Offence Law also broadens the definition of consent, which is now designed to redress the balance in favour of survivours without prejudicing the perpetrators’ right to a fair trial to help juries reach just and fair decisions.

The launch event of the Sexual Offences Law brought together various government officials including Vice President Abdihakim Haji Omar (Amey), Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Ali Hashi, the chief justice, Puntland police forces, various cabinet ministers and a cross section of government officials. The high level participation was a clear demonstration of sustained commitment by both policy makers and partners towards the implementation of sexual offences act.

The Vice President of Puntland spoke of government’s commitment to implement the law as expected.

“We however need to have unified laws both at federal level and state level for us to implement the law effectively,” said the Vice President.

He also expressed concern on the age definition is based on the Constitution of Somalia and was reviewed, the Act will be further worked on.

Both the vice Present and the Minister of MoJRAR expressed their assurance that the newly enacted law addresses many challenges in current legal frameworks such as withdrawal of cases from the formal justice system due to family interference, inadequate assurance of witness protection before and after trial, fear and stigma of GBV survivours.

Minister of Justice Salah Habib Jama highlighted the urgent need to implement punitive measures in ending sexual violence in Somalia. He also highlighted the need consider rehabilitation of sexual offenders.

Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Justice in Federal Government of Somalia Ismail Jima’ale commended Puntland authorities for passing this important Law. He further highlighted that the Sexual Offences Law will be a model for the entire Somalia, which would be further unified to strengthen justice across the country.

The Swedish Ambassador to Somalia Mikeal Lindvall commended the commitment of Puntland authorities, particularly Ministry of Justice, for taking forward the enactment of Sexual Offences Act. Lindvall also reaffirmed his government’s sustained support to the implementation of the law through UNFPA, building from the ongoing medicolegal response support and establishing a forensic lab to strengthen justice and legal redress for survivours of gender based violence and their families. 

“It is worth to note that the availability of forensic services in Puntland is already a key milestone for the implementation support plan of the sexual offences act,” said Lindvall.

All partners present, including UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF and UNODC also pledged their commitment to fully support the implementation plan of the ct.

UNFPA Representative to Somalia Nikolai Botev impressed on the government authorities and partners that having a law in place calls for social change and mindset and changing status quo as well as breaking stigma. “The law also plays a vital role for protection of women and girls but also men and boys,” said Botev.

He also mentioned that UNFPA supported a GBV one stop center in Puntland; Maatokaal which he cited as one facility that could be strengthened while the act is being implemented as it already provides comprehensive services to survivours of sexual violence including medical, legal and psychosocial support.

Other issues raised for consideration for the implementation plan of the Sexual Offences Act include for the government to consider amending the act, particularly addressing the issue of child marriage, having longer term investment such as infrastructure and systems strengthening to allow quality response and accountability on the Act and related GBV service and for an oversight committee to be put in place as a means of collectively tracking the implementation of the Act. A national justice training institution in Puntland was also suggested.

Since 2014, UNFPA and UNDP Somalia have been supporting the advocacy process towards the passage of the law in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, Religious Affairs and Rehabilitation (MOJRAR), engaging in sensitive and intensive discussions with religious leaders, parliamentarians, experts as well as community members.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For more information please contact UNFPA Somalia Communications Specialist Pilirani Semu-Banda on e-mail: [email protected]