PRESS STATEMENT: Somaliland passes its first Anti-rape Law

Women and girls in one of the urban areas in Somaliland (Photo: SIHA Network)

For the longest time, stories of rape are prolific in Somaliland’s urban areas with the semi-independent state’s image of an “island of relative peace” away from the turmoil in Somalia. In the past, majority of rape victims believe that law enforcement authorities are un-willing and ill-equipped to investigate these crimes.

Commendably so, after a seven-year debate period, Somaliland lawmakers – on Monday, passed the first Anti-rape law, criminalizing the violent act now dubbed “A VICTORY FOR WOMEN” in the traditional Muslim state. In the past, the local traditional law rewarded the perpetrator with the victim he offended which came with insurmountable pain and shame towards the victim. With the newly-passed law though, the rapist will be punished and incarcerated for up to 30 years behind bars.

In 2015, SIHA Network conducted research on the realities influencing the lives of women and girls in Somali-land, looking at the notions of gender relations and the inherited images of women’s subordination. The report, THE OTHER WAR: GANG RAPE IN SOMALILAND since being published has raised awareness and aided in strengthening civil society and government efforts to address rape in Somaliland taking into account the absence of justice and impunity for perpetrators.

With this overt victory for women both nationally in Somaliland and globally, SIHA calls on the Upper House of Elders (Guurti) and the Government’s final approval through the President of Somaliland to assent to the law and put it into effect as soon as possible, to have justice served on these perpetrators and vehemently deter others from contemplating rape against their fellow female citizens.

SIHA remains committed to reproaching all forms of violence against women and girls, recognizing the need for long-term, persistent messaging to drive change in Somaliland and the Horn of Africa region.

Background

The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is a network of civil society organizations from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Uganda, and Kenya. Established in 1995 by a coalition of women’s rights activists with the aim of strengthening the capacities of women’s rights organizations and addressing women’s subordination and violence against women and girls in the Horn of Africa, SIHA’s network is comprised of close to 90 member organizations. SIHA and its members envision girls and women in the Horn of Africa with the right to live in a peaceful, just environment and the ability to exercise their equal rights as human beings. SIHA’s work with adolescent girls aims to address their overall subordination and exposure to violence, while investing in their potential and reducing their vulnerabilities.

For interview requests or images and case studies from SIHA Network, please contact the Project Development and Communications Officer (martha@sihanet.org) +256414286263

PRESS RELEASE: Public Order Laws in Sudan continue to be used to punish and control women

The report, ‘Criminalisation of Women in Sudan: A Need for Fundamental Reform’, shows how public order laws, designed to protect morality, continue to disproportionately target women, who can face long spells in jail and flogging for infractions such as wearing ‘trousers’

The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) and REDRESS have published today a report that relies on the personal experiences of Sudanese women caught up in the arbitrary application of Sudan’s public order laws.

Focusing on Khartoum state, the reports describes the experiences of some of the women most affected by the application of these laws, including alcohol brewers and sellers, human rights defenders, female students and migrant women.

The report concludes that Sudan’s public order laws, which have enforced strict moral codes since the introduction of Sharia laws in 1983, have been further extended and continue to be used in an arbitrary manner specifically oppressing women.

Women interviewed for the report described facing long spells in jail and punishments such as lashing for public order law infractions such as wearing trousers, which is considered an “indecent dress”.

The report recounts the experiences of these women within a flawed justice system, from the moment of their arrest and detention to their trial before public order courts and the imposition of sentences (which may include corporal punishment such as flogging) and imprisonment.

The report underscores that Sudan’s public order laws – which contain a mix of criminal and moral prohibitions which blur the distinction between the enactment of law for the public interest and the imposition of moral precepts based on religious convictions – effectively control women’s engagement in public life.

The report shows that Sudan’s public order laws entrench human rights violations in law and fail to comply with Sudan’s regional and international human rights obligations. The report calls on the Sudanese Government to repeal these laws.

Sudanese women are the mirror of the injustices and discriminatory nature of Sudan’s legal system. These laws as long as they continue to serve are affecting communities for generations to come by imposing the subordination of women in the mindset of the younger generation, and hence taking away any potential for the country to progress and to live in peace,” said Hala Alkarib,  Regional Director of SIHA Network.

The atmosphere created by these public order laws is one of fear and self-censorship as women are never aware of when or for what reason they might be arrested,” said Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS. “These laws are not about morality, but about perpetuating the control of the Sudanese Government over its citizens, particularly women. We call on Sudan to put an end to these unlawful and discriminatory laws.

For more information, please contact Eva Sanchis, REDRESS Head of communications (English, Spanish) on 020 7793 1777; 07857 110076 (out of hours) or eva@redress.org OR Martha Tukahirwa, SIHA NETWORK Communications Officer (English) on +256 759 286263; +256 790 213969 (out of hours) or martha@sihanet.org

 

PUBLIC STATEMENT: REPORT OF STONING CASE IN SOMALIA – A MOTHER OF 8 STONED TO DEATH IN THE DISTRICT OF SAAKOW

7TH NOVEMBER, 2017

On the fateful afternoon of Friday 27th October, in the southern district of Saakow, Habiba Ali Isaq, a 30 year old mother of eight children, was stoned to death for alleged adultery against her husband, Ali Ibrahim. According to her husband, Isaq was living in Hagar village in Jubbar with her children when she left her marital home to Mogadishu to visit relatives. Ibrahim claimed that his wife then got married to another man in a different village named Nus Duniya after disappearing for 18 days.
On a relative’s witness account to SIHA’s staff member; he confirmed that Habiba’s marriage had a lot of friction over lack of support to the family – a mandatory role according to the Family law of the country and to Islamic teachings. However, after several failed attempts to change the situation, Habiba’s family decided to advise and proceed with divorce arrangements against her husband’s will and acceptance. Nevertheless, Alshabab took the case to their own court and sentenced her to stoning after the final verdict.

The stoning emphasizes the continued suffering of Somali civilians in the name of dubious and militant views of Islamic traditions,’ says Hala Alkarib, Regional Director of the Strategic Initiative for women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA). Hala continues, ‘But the risks lie in the normalization of such an act, which is why it is crucial and important for the Somali governments and religious leaders to counter and stand against the practice of stoning politically and ideologically. It is not tolerable or acceptable that, in the 21st century, a decision to stone a person to death is still being made in any part of the world and within Muslim societies, despite accumulated knowledge of Islamic heritage which clearly rejects this act”.

Stoning is becoming a broader trend in Somalia which SIHA regularly confronts. This inhumane act follows an earlier similar event that took place in late May, when a group of Al Shabab militia stoned a 44 year old man to death in the town of Rama Addey for alleged adultery. Dhayow was found guilty of impregnating a woman outside of marriage. In October 2014, the same Al Shabab militia stoned to death Safia Ahmed Jimale, a 33-year old mother who struggled with mental illness.
The brutality of stoning acts carried out against Somali citizens should not be viewed as a practice which select groups feel compelled to carry out because of their religious affiliations, but rather as a criminal act by cliques who wish to employ violence as a means of intimidation and population control, resorting to such violence.

About SIHA
The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is a network of civil society organizations from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Somali-land, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Uganda and Kenya. Established in 1995 by a coalition of women’s rights activists with the aim of strengthening the capacities of women’s rights organizations and addressing women’s subordination and violence against women and girls in the Horn of Africa, SIHA’s network is comprised of close to 90 member organizations. SIHA and its members envision girls and women in the Horn of Africa with the right to live in a peaceful, just environment and the ability to exercise their equal rights as human beings. SIHA’s work with adolescent girls aims to address their overall subordination and exposure to violence, while investing in their potential and reducing their vulnerabilities.

PRESS STATEMENT: Condemning insurgent acts of terrorism in the double truck bombings in Mogadishu, Somalia

Destruction of the Safari Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia during the October 14th terror attacks (Photo Source)

Somalia’s long-running political unrest has continued to take a heavy toll on civilians, as warring partied and insurgent Islamic continue to hurt, kill and later, displace them in the country.  On Saturday 14th October, a deadly double truck bombing struck in Mogadishu – one of the deadliest attacks in the capital of Somalia, with a rising death toll of at least 300 and over 200 injured. There is no clear insinuation on which extremist group is responsible for the twin bombing attacks in the city, but the magnitude of the attack is most alarming since the 1990’s in the politically-fragile nation making it the single most deadly attack in the Horn of Africa nation.

With this unclaimed attack on civilians, including women and children, SIHA strongly condemns these brutal acts of violence on innocent individuals. This merciless brutality against humans destabilizes communities, violates human rights and threatens the well-being of the inhabitants. SIHA Network also recognizes that with a spontaneous increase in Somalia’s 1.1 million internally displaced people to many more, primarily women and children who remain extremely vulnerable, we are confident that these negative forces will be overcome and, wicked ideologies defeated.

SIHA calls on the Somali government to address the militarization of civilians, spreading militant militias, and stand firm against the spreading of religious militancy, gender-based violence, corruption while working to provide employment and training opportunities for youth males and females to end the situation of disparity and random violence.

SIHA remains committed to reproaching such acts of violence against minority, demographic groups recognizing the need for long-term persistent messaging to drive change in the region.

SIHA mourns the loss of our Somali family, friends and civilians; and we pray for recovery of those injured in the attacks.

Background

The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is a network of civil society organizations from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Somali-land, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Uganda, and Kenya. Established in 1995 by a coalition of women’s rights activists with the aim of strengthening the capacities of women’s rights organizations and addressing women’s subordination and violence against women and girls in the Horn of Africa, SIHA’s network is comprised of close to 90 member organizations. SIHA and its members envision girls and women in the Horn of Africa with the right to live in a peaceful, just environment and the ability to exercise their equal rights as human beings. SIHA’s work with adolescent girls aims to address their overall subordination and exposure to violence, while investing in their potential and reducing their vulnerabilities.


For interview requests or images and case studies from SIHA Network, please contact Martha Tukahirwa, Project Development and Communications Officer (
martha@sihanet.org) +256414286263

PRESS STATEMENT: International Day of the Girl Child 2017

16 days of Activism with school girls in Khartoum, Sudan

On the International Day of the Girl Child with the aim of highlighting and addressing the needs and challenges that girls face – SIHA remains committed to advocating for girls in the Horn of Africa. This year’s theme of “EmPOWER Girls: Before, during and after crises” is central to our ethos. SIHA’s work with adolescent girls living in emergency contexts aims to address their overall subordination and exposure to violence, while investing in their potential, and reducing their vulnerabilities as a marginalized group in the region. The social and economic drivers of migration, violence against girls and trafficking in the East and Horn of Africa region are embedded in political instability, poverty, and the ingrained culture of patriarchy. In the countries where SIHA is operating, adolescent girls are not allowed to enjoy their childhood.

  • In several parts of Uganda, girls’ education is not a priority; here, we are looking at Moroto and Kotido as key areas – where in Moroto, 6.4% of girls finish their education. According to the latest census, there are 23,154 girls aged 6 to 12, but only 20.7% (4,786) of them are enrolled in school. Additionally, Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) education is also a key priority in schools, especially for girls where they can make informed decisions about their bodies, choices and speak out against acts of sexual violence. A lack of proper SRHR education has led to an increase in teen pregnancies amongst young girls from 24 to 25% attributed to the low level of education in the demographic group. SIHA through its educational programme remains devoted to supporting girls in their educational path in Uganda;
  • Due to the prolonged war and militarization in South Sudan, there continues to be normalization of violence which has translated into rising levels of sexual violence. In Darfur and Nuba Mountains, SIHA has established skills-development programs for girls where protection and awareness against all forms of violence against women particularly sexual violence, have been integrated into curricula;
  • With the influx (part of a total of 11,245 migrants and asylum seekers) of Ethiopian migrant adolescent girls into the Gulf through Somalia in search of better economic conditions, many of these girls are deported back into Ethiopia – thus increasing their vulnerability as Internally Displaced People (IDPs), and being more susceptible to trafficking and child marriages. These girls account for nearly 50% of the migrant population. Eritrea’s population continues to be disrupted by the country’s military conscription, turmoil – enabling sexual violence and trafficking. In Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somaliland, SIHA continues to work very closely with and through its members to advocate and provide direct support related to girls migrating seeking economic opportunities.
  • In Somalia, SIHA strongly condemns the practice of gang-rape, where victims of rape and those supporting them are criminalized and harassed by the authorities that need to protect the girls’ rights. Female genital mutilation and early marriage are still rife in the region and SIHA has persistently challenged these harmful traditional practices by conducting trainings and community facilitation.

Across all project locations, SIHA continues to use a number of methods to provide direct support to grassroots organizations and associations. SIHA acknowledges that saving and empowering the girl-child living in emergency contexts, especially in the Horn of Africa is a global effort. SIHA is committed to the safety of adolescent girls in the Horn of Africa.

Background

The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) is a network of civil society organizations from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Uganda, and Kenya. Established in 1995 by a coalition of women’s rights activists with the aim of strengthening the capacities of women’s rights organizations and addressing women’s subordination and violence against women and girls in the Horn of Africa, SIHA’s network is comprised of close to 90 member organizations. SIHA and its members envision girls and women in the Horn of Africa with the right to live in a peaceful, just environment and the ability to exercise their equal rights as human beings. SIHA’s work with adolescent girls aims to address their overall subordination and exposure to violence, while investing in their potential and reducing their vulnerabilities.

For interview requests or images and case studies from SIHA Network, please contact the Project and Communications Development Officer – Ms. Martha Tukahirwa (martha@sihanet.org) +256414286263