Withdraw the “Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Bill” and Uphold the rights and wellbeing of children in Somalia

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The Government of the Republic of Somalia must uphold the rights of its children and live up to its obligations to protect children from all forms of violence, including child, early and forced marriage.

African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and African Partnership to End Violence against Children (APEVAC) are concerned that the Government of the Republic of Somalia is considering a “Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Bill”. If passed into law in its current form, the bill permits child, early and forced marriage, allows marriage with a child based on subjective consideration of reproductive maturity independent of age, emotional and psychological readiness. The definitions of sexual offences and the provisions in this bill fail to adequately guarantee the protection of child victims, witnesses and accused.

ACPF and APEVAC wish to remind the Government of the Republic of Somalia that the Bill in its current form violates the principles, standards and obligations set out in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), as well as other regional and international human rights instruments that protect women’s and children’s rights. Most importantly, it contravenes the country’s Constitution, which prohibits marriage with a person under 18 years of age and asserts the right of every child to be protected from abuse.

We are appalled that such a bill is even considered by the highest legislative arm of the government. We strongly condemn this proposed legislation that normalises sexual violence against children, emboldens potential perpetrators and degrades the dignity of children particularly girls. We denounce a bill that will permit marriage with children and is not in conformity with international and regional norms and standards that protect children from all forms of violence, including sexual violence.

ACPF and APEVAC express their grave concern that the present legislation comes at a time when the Government of the Republic of Somalia has made commendable progress with the Sexual Offences Bill, which was unanimously adopted by the Council of Ministers in May 2018 and was awaiting approval by the Parliament. The Government of the Republic of Somalia must honour its commitments to its children and protect their rights and wellbeing. The children of Somalia deserve nothing less.

Expressing our solidarity with the children of Somalia, we urge the Government of the Republic of Somalia to immediately withdraw the “Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Bill” and reintroduce the Sexual Offences Bill to the parliament.

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3 September 2020

 

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