Rape: A Rising Crisis and Reality for the Women in Somalia

Somali women are the economic backbone in Somali society and in recent years have assumed more prevailing position as breadwinners of many families. They are the bond that holds families together. They are, however, marginalized and underrepresented in many economic, communal, political and leadership positions. While the barrier to empowerment for women in all areas such as employment, economic opportunities, education, health and participation in politics sturdily exist, the increased levels of violence against women in Somalia and their exclusion from important arenas where public policy is shaped and enacted to impact society as whole betoken both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality. The fear of violence can prevent women from pursuing education, working or exercising their political rights and voice. Violence against women in Somalia does not only stem from gender inequality; it is a consequence of it. In many places, gender-based violence (GBV) is reinforced by exclusionary prejudicial social norms that undermine women and girl’s opportunities for education, stable income and to be a voice on the decision making table. Girls are often subject to parental restrictions including keeping them out of educational opportunities. Therefore, gender inequalities, compounded by the breakdown of social norms and State fragility due to the civil war, are attributed to be the root cause and enabling context of violence against women in Somalia. This policy paper will examine rape culture in the context of traditional norms, historic nature of rape, rape as a weapon of war and the manner in which rape has climaxed in recent years. The aim is to analyze and dissect how powerlessness, inequality, entrenched cultural perception of gender and women’s place in society and the breakdown of social norms due to the Somali state failure are contributing to the increase in the incidences of sexual violence against Somali women, leading to horrific cases of rape on Somali women and girls. The policy brief will inform the impact of intersectionality of patriarchy, objectification, gender stereotypes, and normalized rape culture all precipitating the onset of rape and subsequent lack of reporting and criminalization.