Somaliland’s Revolutionary Rape Law

Author: YoTuT from United States - From Wikimedia Commons

Somaliland – not to be confused with Somalia – has taken an exemplary step in the right direction with its recent passing of the law surrounding rape. Before the new law (that precedents rape as illegal and sees its perpetrators facing up to 30 years in prison), it was common practice for a victim to be forced into marriage by their own family to avoid shame.

Though not internationally recognised as a separate country, the self-declared state Somaliland claimed its independence in 1991 in an attempt to escape the violence that surrounds Somalia. Somaliland has its own administered government, political system and even currency. It consistently works towards moving further away from its sistering country and towards being a nation that upholds fairer and more Western-inspired values.

Somaliland currently has a population of around 3.5 million inhabitants. Although evidencing clear development since its declaration of independence, the country per se has been somewhat slow moving towards its values and aims. Until now, as aforementioned, victims of rape in the past have been encouraged to marry their attackers to avoid bringing shame to their family. In a country where, in the words of Somaliland’s speaker of parliament, Bashe Mohamed Farah, when talking to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), “We have seen even people carrying out gang rapes,” it was clear that tackling this issue head-on was well overdue.

Being recognised as a state that was home to such alarming issues, Somaliland has been under pressure from women’s and children’s rights advocates for some time. The passing of the law has been recognised as nothing less than revolutionary and is anticipated to set an example to similar countries. The new law will recognise all forms of sexual offences, including rape, gang rape, sexual assault, child marriage and trafficking as criminal offences

Somalia has been working on its first sexual offences bill since 2014; however, the country itself is still recognised as a place where rape is ‘normal’. Some other countries have certain laws which can see the legal and societal forgiving of rapists if they are publicly pardoned by victims or bound by marriage. It can only be hoped that such countries may follow suit from Somaliland in the future and work towards a world where nobody need live in distress. It can also be hoped that in the future this law may be extended to the interests of the victim. At present, according to The Guardian, the bill “does not make lack of consent the key determinant of rape. The victim has to prove ‘use of force, intimidation or threat.'” Whilst still a huge step in the right direction, a lot more can be done to ensure the right to live in safety for all.

It is hoped the bill itself will be signed into official law by President Musa Bihi Adbi on 1st March which promises to be a truly significant date indeed. Everyone should have the right to live without fear of threat or violence, and Somaliland has certainly taken a huge step to work towards ensuring this for its citizens.

Jessica Pardoe

Global Seven News