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The Puntland State of Somalia is making headway in the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) as it intensifies efforts towards ending sexual violence, sexual assault and exploitation, female genital mutilation and early and forced marriages.

UNFPA Head of Puntland Field Office, Dr. Bakhtior Kadirov said a lot of action is going on to address GBV in the area. He said In November 2013, Puntland Islamic scholars declared a ‘Fatwa' calling for a complete stop of all types of female genital mutilation, including Sunna type. "Just four months after the Fatwa against the practice of female genital mutilation was issued, His Excellency Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, the President of Puntland, enacted a new law banning female genital mutilation in March 2014," said Dr. Kadirov.

And in line with the ongoing 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, the Puntland Ministry of Women Development and Family Affairs, UNSOM, UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF, IOM and a number of NGOs are strengthening their efforts and collaborating even more against gender-based violence under the theme "From Peace in the Home to the Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women". The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign that starts on 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day. The campaign hopes to raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international level.

Delivering a statement on behalf of UN organisations and the working group on gender-based violence at the beginning of the 16 days, Dr. Kadirov commended Government of Puntland for its strong efforts in addressing concerns of gender-based violence. He noted that GBV is among the most pervasive violations to human rights, as well as being a health concern with serious implications for reproductive health outcomes.

He underlined that the challenges of GBV are formidable and complex saying female genital mutilation affects large numbers of women and girls, that girls are prevented from going to school or forced to marry, that survivors of sexual violence can suffer significant health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, traumatic fistula and higher risks of sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, that violence occurs during conflicts, where the risks are compounded by displacement, breakdowns in social norms and lack of access to services and that trafficking in women and girls constitutes a serious concern.

Dr. Kadirov called on people to join the global endeavour to "Orange YOUR Neighbourhood" as part of the United Nations Secretary-General's Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women.

Minister of Women Development and Family Affairs Ms. Anisa Hajimumin emphasised the social and health consequences of gender-based violence (GBV). She also called for adherence to the values of Islam and national laws and for the law enforcement bodies and personnel to address the culture of impunity.

NGO representative, Mr. Mohamoud Said from Relief and Development Initiative noted that the civil society organizations of Puntland is joining hands of men and women who come together to call for an end all forms of violence against women. He emphasised that we must redress the poor status of women and girls in Puntland which renders them undervalued and vulnerable to gender -based violence.

The 16 days of activism in Puntland was comprised of TV and radio talks shows, poetry competitions, workshops, community based campaigns and rallies.