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Letter of Grievance to Somaliland leaders: A Call to Action

 

After much deliberation and countless meetings, rape incidences and the sexual offence bill are at a crossroad in Somaliland. One must wonder how much work and how often SGBV issues can continue in Somaliland and what needs to be done in order for the bill to progress through proper channels and proper implementation of the bill by signing as a law.

We have witnessed countless meetings to discuss prevention measures, post-care and trauma efforts, dialogues between international NGO’s and government institutions and civil society organizations. However, the issue at hand is not that Somaliland is incapable of taking care of a rape victim, but rather that they’ve let down the victim because Somaliland leaders, politicians, religious leaders, traditional elders, and women, in general, have decided to stay quiet against the victims with their inaction and lack of proper mechanism in the rules affecting SGBV. One should be able to ask how can we continue to let a perpetrator have impunity and yet we scream for a proper law to eradicate or the numbers of SGBV in Somaliland or punish the perpetrator.

As an outsider in the working of the political structure of Somaliland, it is not difficult to punish a perpetrator. However, what has happened is that we have conflated plural systems in trying to seek justice that ultimately, we have failed to use all the systems available to adequately punish the perpetrator. We have individuals that are misinterpreting every law that concerns women, intimidating those that are creating policy for this issue, all for their own personal greed or agenda. Misinterpretations of laws is a major issue of concern when it comes to convicting a perpetrator, and that should stop immediately.

We have seen mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, cousins, and grandmothers raped and consistently we have managed as a whole to re-traumatize them further with inaction and no justice for their pain. As such, it is unconscionable that a country that is supposed to be the paragon of democracy in the horn of Africa has decided that a department of forensic evidence should not exist, nor have a budget plan, or a strategy in place to address this situation. Until how long can there be so many meetings to address SGBV? As a whole society, we already know the reasons for why rape incidences happen, how frequent they happen, where they occur, who they affect and yet we turn a blind eye and continue to discuss how to prevent an issue that is essentially staring us in the face. To make matters even worse, those that are entrusted to devise a legislation and a strategy plan on eradicating or reducing the cases of GVB spend at most five minutes in these meetings. What happens in those five minutes is even a curious case. Those five minutes are spent sending salutations to the participants, congratulating participants on discussing and sharing information about GVB and then they leave. We have seen countless meetings where those in power and in positions where they can influence policies and impact change leave after those five minutes without any conducive efforts to make any deep impact on the topic of SGVB. Which begs two questions, how can those that we elected grant us five minutes to address proper action? Is the cycle of aid far more important than the effort to change law thus having the sexual offence bill on standby?

The citizens of Somaliland do not request more than what is required of us as institutions, leaders, politicians or the president of the country. Those affected by cases of SGBV are merely requesting that a perpetrator be punished and that they are not to be forced to marry their aggressor through clan mediation and religious intervention.

The matter at hand, after so many conferences and meetings, is what is the next step?  As president Kennedy Aptly said in his speech on civic duty and public service, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?” What can we do for the victim? What answers do we have for the world that we recognize rape and SGBV is prevalent in our country and yet we lack the ability or action plan to fix this problem? It is important that we become more than mere words. It is important that those elected do far more than attend a meeting for five minutes. It is far more important that we become those that are running towards justice and speaking for the defenseless and voiceless. It is important that we are a nation of actions and not just promises. It’s time for all to understand that talking is no longer an acceptable behavior, but we need is a law that guarantees the safety of women and children in our country.

 

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