SOMALIA: Peace in Somalia will Remain Superficial until the Human Rights of Women are Protected

SIHA Network

On the 21st August 2012, a female tea seller traveling in the early evening was dragged from a bus in Awdiinle, Baidoa Region, by Al Shabaab taken to the bush close by and beheaded. The woman in question had been based in Bardaale district (Bay region) and had in the course of her tea selling business served members of the TFG who came to her shop regularly. Although she had received threats from Al Shabaab that she would be killed if she continued to receive business from the TFG, due to her position as sole breadwinner in her household, it was necessary that she continue.

The recent events demonstrate the continued victimization of women as innocent bystanders to a conflict they have neither created nor wish to participate in. Instead, women are easy targets in the struggle for geo-political control in Somalia. They have become pawns in the military pursuits of armed actors and are targeted in lieu of legitimate military objectives.

The fanfare around the new constitution and within it legislation to protect women’s rights, such as the introduction of a law banning FGM, is welcomed. However such progress on paper must not obscure or detract from the violence that women continue to be subjected to as a result of the conflict and the associated political insecurity.

Under Al Shabaab control, women face forced marriage, rape, corporal punishment such as lashings or stoning should they violate the fundamentalist moral order through their dress or in their personal associations, and as can be seen in this example, death if the conduct of their daily business is seen as an affront to Al Shabaab’s political or strategic objectives.

Within the TFG women in IDP camps have faced rape and sexual violence, with one statistic placing incidences of rape in IDP camps at 50% perpetrated by TFG militia. IDP women face threats to their personal security and those of their children, find themselves financially vulnerable with limited economic support and have seen their emergency supplies stolen by both military and civilian actors.

As innocent bystanders and civilians, the human rights of women must be protected by all parties to the conflict. International Humanitarian Law must be upheld by all belligerents and impunity cannot be allowed to prevail by any of the military or political actors.