Human rights in Somalia

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Human rights in Somalia are guaranteed in the Federal Constitution, which was adopted in August 2012. They fall under the Ministry of Human Rights established in August 2013.[1] The central authorities concurrently inaugurated a National Human Rights Day, endorsed an official Human Rights Roadmap,[2] and completed Somalia's first National Gender Policy.[3] A Human Rights Task Force was also established in February 2013 to firm up on the protection of individual rights.[4] Additionally, the federal government in December 2014 organized a public awareness campaign,[5] passed a new 54-point national Child Protection Act,[6] and finished legislation on a Human Rights Commission bill.[7] According to the UN's Independent Human Rights Expert on Somalia, local human rights protection has gradually improved as government institutionalization and legislative reform have taken root.[8]

Human Rights Task Force[edit]

Former Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon established the first national Ministry of Human Rights.

In early February 2013, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon launched an Independent Task Force on Human Rights in order to firm up on the protection of individual rights. The 13-member committee of volunteers was formed after extensive consultations with civil society groups and the Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Osman Jawari. Chaired by prominent human rights attorney Maryam Yusuf Sheikh Ali, one of four women on the panel, the Task Force includes an educator, a peace activist, leaders of Somali women's organizations, senior police officers, a humanitarian campaigner, a religious leader, and a media representative. It is tasked with investigating allegations of human rights abuses and journalist intimidation. At the end of its three-month mandate, the committee is scheduled to publish a report on its findings and recommended courses of action. The Task Force will eventually give way to a permanent parliamentary Human Rights Commission, which will have the capacity to investigate allegations over a longer period.[4]

Ministry of Human Rights[edit]

In late August 2013, during a special parliamentary session, Prime Minister Shirdon established the first dedicated national Ministry for Human Rights.[1] The federal authorities concurrently declared 27 August as Somalia's National Human Rights Day. It also endorsed a Human Rights Roadmap, which defines government duties and sets specific benchmarks to be achieved over a two-year timeframe.[2]

On 17 January 2014, new Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed joined the Human Rights portfolio with Women's Affairs to form the Ministry of Women and Human Rights. It is led by Khadijo Mohamed Diriye.[9]

Women's rights[edit]

On August 1, 2012, a new Federal Constitution was adopted, which includes several statutes related to equality as proposed by a Committee of Experts (CoE).[10] Article 11 of the Federal Constitution guarantees equal treatment for all citizens regardless of gender.[11]

Chairperson of the Barnet Muslim Women's Network Hanan Ibrahim addressing the ISSAT (2013).

Women have since obtained greater representation in the public sphere. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, 30% of seats in Somalia's Federal Parliament are legally reserved for women.[12] This quota was secured by Somali parliamentary consultant Hodan Ahmed and women political leaders.[13] Ahmed had also helped form the Somali Women Parliamentary Association in 2009 in the preceding Transitional Federal Parliament.[14] In November 2012, Prime Minister Shirdon likewise appointed two women to the Cabinet, Fowsiyo Yussuf Haji Aadan as the nation's first female Minister of Foreign Affairs and Maryam Qassim as Minister of Social Development.[15]

In June 2013, the federal government began drafting the country's first National Gender Policy.[16] Led by Minister Maryam Qassim, the initiative was completed by August and aims to empower women, strengthen gender equality and safeguard women's rights.[3]

According to the UNDP, the most common types of violence faced by women and men in 2012 were physical attacks (50% of reported crime cases) followed by property crimes (32%). There was a low overall rate of sexual violence, with a reported nationwide prevalence rate ranging from 2% to 13%. The UNDP suggested that this was possibly attributable to reluctance on the part of female youth to report such cases due to entrenched cultural and social stigmas, though male youth were more likely to report crimes in general.[17] Most incidents of sexual assault occurred within the context of the insurgency in southern Somalia. Over the first quarter of 2013, Amnesty International reported that 56.7% of victims in Mogadishu were internally displaced persons.[18] According to Human Rights Watch, the government in 2013 developed comprehensive judicial and security reform plans, but had not yet followed through on those commitments.[19] At least two women who reported rape were also prosecuted for prevarication, but were later released following appeals.[20][21]

Parliamentary consultant Hodan Ahmed.

To address the issue, the central authorities as of December 2013 were in the process of forming a special crime unit to investigate and counter gender-based violence, as well as constructing a clinic set aside for victims of sexual assault. The national judiciary, security and police forces were all concurrently receiving specialized gender training as part of the broader reform effort.[22] In June 2014, the Somali government also launched a National Action Plan against sexual violence in conjunction with local civil society groups.[23] As part of the initiative, the Ministry of Women and Human Rights in December 2014 organized a public awareness campaign in the capital on the importance of human rights and how citizens can ensure their protection.[5] It also completed legislation on a new Human Rights Commission bill.[7]

According to a 2005 World Health Organization estimate, about 97.9% of Somalia's women and girls underwent female genital mutilation,[24] a pre-marital custom mainly endemic to Northeast Africa and parts of the Near East.[25][26] Encouraged by women in the community, it is primarily intended to deter promiscuity and to offer protection from assault.[27] By 2013, UNICEF in conjunction with the Somali authorities reported that the prevalence rate among 1 to 14 year old girls in the autonomous northern Puntland and Somaliland regions had dropped to 25% following a social and religious awareness campaign.[28] Article 15 of the Federal Constitution also officially prohibits the practice.[11]

Prominent human rights activists include the constitutional Committee of Experts member Hanan Ibrahim, who serves as the Chairperson of the Barnet Muslim Women's Network; Hawa Aden Mohamed, Chairperson of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development; and Fartuun Adan and her daughter Ilwad Elman, founders of the Mogadishu-based Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre.

Children's rights[edit]

Article 29 of Somalia's national constitution defines a child as any individual under the age of 18, and stipulates that "every child has the right to be protected from mistreatment, neglect, abuse, or degradation."[11]

According to UNICEF, 82% of children in Somalia in 2006 reported feeling safe in their neighborhoods during the day. 13% felt rather safe, 4% indicated that they don't know/it depends, while 0% reported feeling unsafe. With regard to night-time safety, 53% of children reported feeling safe in their neighborhoods, with 25% feeling rather safe, 4% indicating that they feel rather unsafe, 1% reporting that they feel very unsafe, while 16% stated that they don't know/it depends. Regarding incidences of violence among family/friends and against children, 72% of urban children reported no such incidents, whereas 20% responded affirmatively. 90% of children indicated that they were not themselves the victims of violence, while 10% reported that they were. Of the types of violence experienced by family/friends and by the children, the majority consisted of robbery (37%), followed by assault (28%), rape (19%), family member killed (11%), verbal assault (11%), genocide/war (8%), abduction (6%), being beat/caned seriously (4%), quarreling (3%), and uncertain (2%).[29]

Regarding the extent of trust they had in different societal groups, the children indicated that they most trusted their mother (85% totally; 7% quite) and their father (71% totally; 15% quite). They also asserted that they least trusted the police (3% not very much; 7% not at all) and the mass media (3% not very much; 5% not at all). Additionally, the majority of children reported being aware of their rights (78%), with their right to education (72%), right not to be hurt or mistreated (63%), and right to health (62%) most widely recognized. With regard to the extent to which various rights are respected in Somalia, most children felt that their main rights were respected, including the right to education (58% totally; 19% quite; 3% not quite; 1% not at all; 11% don't know; 7% no response), right not to be mistreated (46% totally; 24% quite; 4% not quite; 5% not at all; 14% don't know; 8% no response), and right to health (52% totally; 22% quite; 3% not quite; 3% not at all; 12% don't know; 7% no response). Regarding their general state of happiness, 86% of children reported feeling happy, 10% were neither happy nor unhappy, and 3% were unhappy. A majority of the children also indicated that the quality of their relationship with their parents was very good (72%), followed by good (17%).[29]

In terms of the proportion of children working for money, 93% reported that they don't work. 6% indicated that they were carrying out a regular part-time job, 6% stated that they were carrying out an occasional or part-time job, and 4% asserted that they were carrying out a full-time job. 64% of children reported not being engaged in unpaid work, 20% indicated that they were carrying out a regular unpaid part-time job, 15% stated that they were carrying out an occasional part-time unpaid job, and 0% indicated that they were carrying out a full-time unpaid job.[29]

In March 2014, Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed ratified three core International Labour Organization conventions on behalf of the Federal Republic of Somalia, including the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention.[30] In December 2014, the Federal Parliament also passed a new 54-point national Child Protection Act, which had been formulated by the Ministry for Women Affairs and Human Rights.[31]

Minority rights[edit]

Article 11 of the national constitution stipulates that the state must not discriminate against any individual on the basis of race, colour, tribe or ethnicity.[11]

The Gabboye occupational clans, which include the numerically few Madhiban, Yibir and Tumaal (collectively referred to as sab), have over the years obtained political representation within Somalia. Their general social status has correspondingly improved with the expansion of urban centers.[32] However, due to their foreign, non-Somali origins, people from the Bantu ethnic minority group still often face societal marginalization.[33]

In 2013, the federal government announced that it would establish its Directorate General for Human and Minority Rights and Rule of Law within the Office of the Prime Minister.[34] Through the Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs, it also launched a new national Agency for Refugees and IDPs, which is tasked with handling legislation, response initiatives, advocacy and implementation vis-a-vis returning and internally displaced citizens.[6]

Freedom House index[edit]

The following chart shows Somalia's ratings since 1972 on Freedom House's annual Freedom in the World index. A rating of 1 is "free"; 7, "not free".[35]1

International treaties[edit]

International human rights treaties that Somalia has signed or ratified include:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

1.^ Note that the "Year" signifies the "Year covered". Therefore the information for the year marked 2008 is from the report published in 2009, and so on.
2.^ The 1982 report covers the year 1981 and the first half of 1982, and the following 1984 report covers the second half of 1982 and the whole of 1983. In the interest of simplicity, these two aberrant "year and a half" reports have been split into three year long reports through extrapolation.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]