Rape the Rising Crisis and Reality for Somali Women


Somali women are the economic backbone
in Somali society and in recent years have
assumed more prevailing position as bread-
winners of many families. They are the bond
that holds families together. They are, how-
ever, 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 exclu-
sion from important arenas where public
policy is shaped and enacted to impact soci-
ety as whole betoken both a cause and a
consequence of gender inequality.
The fear of violence can prevent women
from pursuing education, working or exercis-
ing their political rights and voice. Violence
against women in Somalia does not only
stem from gender inequality; it is a conse-
quence 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 deci-
sion 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 is argued by  the Somali Institute for Development Research and Analysis (SIDRA) Institute in partnership with ADRA in a  policy brief on rape as a rising crisis and a reality for  the Somali girls and women.

The brief analysed the contributing factors to the rape crisis in Somalia recommends that

The Federal government of Somalia and Federal Member States need to set up a Task Force on
sexual violence against comprising of different government ministries, justice system and civil society groups to realize the implementa-
tion of existing laws on rape and
other forms of sexual and gender
based violence and that Somalia needs holistic social policy approaches and mechanism that
can address sexual violence occurrences, which could include the establishment of dedicated
sexual offense police units and special care referral centers within healthcare facilities and fully
funded effective and independent court system that can conduct robust litigation of sexual offenses.


  1. Sexual violence against women and girls in Somalia, an abominable crime less prevalent in Somalia pre-civil war history and completely against Islam, is emerging as a common occurrence in Somalia and Somali society has lived with its horrors for decades. Recent figures show 76% of all recorded cases happen among the IDPs whereas 14% occur in the hosting communities.
  2. Somali women and girls are reluctant to come forward, report rape due to the cultural taboo and stigma attached to it, and the shame and the loss of family honor associated with it. From the data gathered, only 2 out of 10 women feel the courage to report spousal or intimate partner violence.
  3. Rape in Somalia spiked during the civil war in 1991 and was used as a weapon of war by some of the opposing militias after the collapse of Somalia’s central government. The civil war has produced militia groups who took their hate-filled revenge on the bodies of women to avenge their enemy while others used rape as an opportunistic activity with impunity.
  4. Violent rape by multiple perpetrators (gang rape) is a new phenomenon to the Somali culture and has been a cause of concern for the traditionally conservative Somali people who for decades grappled with rape behind closed doors due to the perceived shamefulness.
  5. Drug abuse (including the local Qat addiction), alcohol and access and availability of pornographic material has been inextricably believed to have a link with the onset and rise of sexual violence and rape in Somalia.
  6. Authorities allow families and traditional elders to settle rape cases out of court through customary laws (Called Xeer) that don’t accord due justice for the victims. This practice has a devastating effect on the justice outcomes of the victims and contributed to the prevalence of rape and sexual violence in Somalia.
  7. There is no awareness, community outreach and trainings on prevention of rape and other types of sexual offenses. Similarly, women and girls do not have adequate awareness and education on how to report rape and preserve the evidence in the event of rape or other sexual crimes. Due to these profusions of difficulties, there is insufficient evidence in many rape cases to prosecute and convict perpetrators