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Somalia: UN expert urges international support to fight violence against women

NAIROBI / GENEVA (16 December 2011) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo urged* Friday the UN community, donors and other stakeholders to address more directly the needs of the Somalian people by balancing between immediate humanitarian requirements and the promotion and protection of women’s human rights.

“I have heard about the fragmentation of programes and policies of UN agencies, donors and other humanitarian stakeholders in Somalia,” the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor violence against women, its causes and consequences” said at the end of her first mission to Somalia.

“While substantial resources have been allocated to support humanitarian needs and to strengthen authorities, the lives of ordinary Somalis have generally not improved and thousands remain extremely vulnerable,” Ms. Manjoo stressed. “This will require more creative efforts to build the capacity of civil society in general, which is willing to undertake a strong role in the current transitional process; and the empowerment of women in particular.”

During her eight-day mission the expert met, in Nairobi, Kenya, with UN and international agencies working on the ground. She then travelled Garowe in Puntland and Mogadishu to meet with government authorities, AMISOM and representatives of civil society, and visited camps for internally displaced people and police stations, and talked with individual victims of gender-based violence.

“While I support the Government’s tentative efforts to address the issues of violence against women, I note that there still are many challenges for the full and effective participation of women in the political process,” she said. “Violence against women is a manifestation of inequality and discrimination which cannot be addressed in isolation of the historical and current context.”

The Special Rapporteur noted the lack of substantive reporting of violence against women and girls, and the absence of proper statistics and data, by the authorities, international agencies and civil society. “The absence of accountability mechanisms and specialized services for women and girl victims of various forms of violence, also contributes to such invisibility and silencing.”

“There also exists the problem of domestic violence, unfortunately the most pervasive form of violence against women, of which no country or society is immune from,” she said remarking that the invisibility of violence in the private sphere has been further exacerbated by the internal conflict, the displacement of populations and non-functioning State authorities. “In the absence of accountability mechanisms, impunity for acts of violence against women and girls is the norm. Furthermore, the use of traditional dispute forums to resolve issues of violence against women results in little or no justice for such victims.”

Ms. Manjoo stressed that the current manifestations of violence against women and girls is a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women; however, in her view, “the internal conflict that has been affecting the country for the past 20 years cannot justify the lack of attention to such violence.”

“Somalia has the opportunity at this crucial time to promote human rights for all, and importantly, to place the issue of violence against women on the national agenda. I call on all stakeholders to take on the responsibility to make this a reality,” she underscored.

The Special Rapporteur’s findings will be discussed in a comprehensive way in her report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2012.

(*) See the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11719&LangID=E

ENDS

Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three year. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo is also a Professor at the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town.

Learn about the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, please visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/women/rapporteur/index.htm

Check the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N94/095/05/PDF/N9409505.pdf?OpenElement

UN Human Rights Country Page – Somalia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/SOIndex.aspx

For additional information and press inquiries please write to vaw@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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