Two decades of conflict have allowed sexual violence to become endemic in Somalia, according to Amnesty International (AI). Most victims don’t report the attacks to authorities, fearing ostracization and stigma and realizing that perpetrators are rarely brought to justice, the group said.
In an interview with the Voice of America
, AI Senior Crisis Adviser Donatella Rovera described a “climate of impunity” in which police lack the capacity and the political will to bring perpetrators to justice.
In Somalia today, she said, attackers “know they can get away with these crimes.”
The United Nations reported that in 2012 there were at least 1,700 cases of rape in Somali settlements for internally displaced people. At least 70 percent of the attacks, it said, were carried out by armed men wearing government uniforms.
Many of the women who were attacked live in makeshift shelters, often with no more than a piece of plastic for a door. They have no protection from rapists, who usually attack at night.
Rovera recounted the story of one woman, who has four children and was abandoned by her husband.
“She told me that she was asleep in her little shelter when a man came in. He had a knife. It was night. She kept quiet because he threatened to kill her. The children were sleeping next to her. He raped her and then he went away,” Rovera said.
The woman said she had not told anyone about the crime because she was afraid that her concerns would not be taken seriously and that she would be laughed at for mentioning the subject.
Rovera admitted that the Mogadishu government’s ability to act is limited because it controls only part of the country. Many other areas are dominated by armed groups and militias such as the jihadist organization al-Shabab.
Even so, she said, “where government forces are present, it is crucial that they take concrete measures to ensure security” and “investigate these crimes.”
The government’s failure to take such steps in the areas it controls “leaves survivors of sexual violence even more isolated” and tells attackers that they can get away with such crimes, she said.
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