Somaliland To Introduce Bill To Outlaw Sexual Assault And Stop Rapists Marrying Victims

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People wait in line to cast their votes during the last election in Somaliland AFP/Getty Images
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Somaliland has introduced a bill to outlaw rape and violent sexual crimes in the first piece of legislation to address gender-based violence in the country’s history.

The bill could see rapists imprisoned for up to 30 years and would criminalize rape, gang rape, sexual assault, child marriage, and trafficking. Rapists who infect their victims with HIV would be jailed for life.

Although the bill has been approved by the lower house of Somaliland’s parliament, it still needs approval from the upper house to become law.

Ayan Mahamoud Somaliland’s representative in Britain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that it is possible that the bill could face resistance when it comes before the House of Elders as “members in the upper house tend to be more traditional.”

In the past, rape victims have been forced to marry their rapist by their family to avoid being shamed.

However, it is hoped that the bill will be passed by President Muse Bihi Abdi on 1 March.

Mr. Mahamoud said that the new government is “very serious about tackling violence against women” and see it as a priority to “bring it (the bill) into Parliament”.

Somaliland is a self-declared nation and became independent from Somalia in 1991 after a civil war.

Currently, the nation does not have any legislation against violent sexual crimes.

Although it is a big achievement to get the bill into Parliament, Guleid Ahmed Jama, chairperson of Human Rights Centre Somaliland told the Guardian that there are still some shortcomings in it.

The bill does not cover domestic violence or female genital mutilation.

He said: “The shortcoming of the bill is that it does not make lack of consent the key determinant of rape. The victim has to prove ‘use of force, intimidation or threat.’”

Figures released by the World Health Organization show that one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Despite the shocking figures, some countries still have laws in place which allow perpetrators to escape justice.

In Greece, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Russia, Serbia, Thailand and Tunisia rapists can escape justice if they marry their victim.

In some countries such as Philippines, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey, Romania and Singapore rapists can escape punishment if the survivor forgives the perpetrator.

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