Uncovering SGBV: It’s Tangible, Stupid!

News coverage on Somalia has a tendency of shifting to and fro a secluded variety of peripheries, ranging from Islamist insurgency and piracy to, devastating droughts and impunity. The fundamental core, more or less, has become intangible injustice. The generic media portrayal has created a somewhat abstract realm where injustices have become inherent and unalterable in Somalia. In other words, as expressed by a couple standing in line at a local coffee shop in Pimlico, “that’s just how it is down there”.

I find myself writing something along the lines of “do not be alarmed by their remark” and “this is a natural consequence of...” and so on. Classic semi-clichés that assure the balance of our moral compass; a comforting cliché orgy if you choose to get graphic.

For those expecting this warm capsule of comfort, look away now.

Rape is the total disregard of a person’s physical integrity, an absolute breach of personal liberty and a disgusting method of shattering a person’s emotional and mental disposition. The act of rape effectively dehumanises the victims, who are usually women. To paraphrase UNESCO, rape is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.

Structural and institutional discrimination towards women is successfully reinforced with this powerful weapon. This has become abundantly clear in East Africa these past few months. A 27 year old Somali woman who claimed that she was raped by government forces and Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, a freelance journalist who interviewed the woman, were arrested in mid-January. They were charged with insulting Somali state institutions. Her husband who supported her throughout the allegations was also arrested.
Her crime: insulting state institutions.

Somalia adopted a highly praised constitution in 2012. It includes numerous articles that address personal liberty, gender equality and the prohibition of sexual abuse in work places. There are laws that prohibit rape. However, these are rarely enforced. Also, there are no laws that address spousal rape, sexual harassment (with the exception of labour related abuse) or domestic violence.
Her crime: insulting state institutions.

The unconcealed intimidation of the alleged victim is one of innumerable cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the Horn of Africa. In Somalia, legal sponsorship combined with cultural practice affirms intimidation and “shaming” as righteous secluded peripheries in which the international community can report on.
Her only crime: making injustice tangible.

Over the coming months, Restless Beings will publish a series of pieces which will tackle SGBV against some of the most marginalised groups. If you wish to contribute to our work on SGBV, please contact us on hassan@restlessbeings.org.



Mabrur Ahmed

I find a vast majority of people have a weird sort of knowledge towards Somalia and East Africa in general, which you alluded to in the opening paragraph. Its like a pseudo apathy - everyone knows of the years of violence, the fight for power, the Al- Shabaab extremists, the deep poverty, the pirates - and we are kind of happy with our knowledge there - we don't really go further, we don't humanise these desensitised topics of war, conflict, extremism and poverty. Sexual gender based violence, the pillage of land from ethnic groups, the huge movement and its associated issues of migration of millions to Dabaab and north Kenya, even the lives of the diaspora in third countries will help wash away this pseudo-apathy - so basically, to cut a long story short, I am definitely looking forward to reading more - keep it coming!!

27 February 2013 delete
Kadar Iman

althuogh iam samali but idon,t want samali govrt becouse every time they enemy with each ather so idon,t have i solusion with my realy gov.t iam very sory for somali confilict amon us

13 June 2014 delete
Liban Yahya

i was born in somalia but grew up in a foreign country but my aspects toward Domestic violence in somalia is Overcome all victims of domestic violence everywhere hope that they can escape and overcome domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a horrible crime and and survivors of domestic violence need help, support and encouragement.
Often, victims of domestic violence may feel alone and as if no one cares. It is also difficult to find help if your abusive partner is keeping you isolated.
I just want to encourage anyone who is going through domestic violence that it is possible to escape the nightmare of abuse and be free.
However, it takes determination and courage to leave an abusive partner.


I too have been a victim of domestic violence and managed to leave my abusive relationship behind.

27 June 2014 delete