Somaliland is a self-declared republic that disassociated itself from Somalia in 1991. The country has recently passed its first rape law. In previous events, if you were a victim of rape in Somaliland, your family could force you to marry your rapist. This was not a law, but this act was passively accepted by the culture. Within this culture, having sexual interaction outside of marriage, could potentially bring shame to the family. Although this may be extremely bizarre and unfair to most, this is the social construct and mentality upheld in some countries.
Many people in Somaliland don’t agree with the current traditions and many women have fought tirelessly to create change. This victory for women is a huge milestone for the country. Women now have a justice system working for them and in their favour. Not only is this the first legislation attacking gender based violence in the country, but the new law covers a huge umbrella of offences.
According to The Guardian, the new law covers accusers of rape, gang rape, sexual assault, sex trafficking and child marriages. If the victim contracts HIV from their abuser, then the abuser is sentenced to life imprisonment. This all inclusive law is seen as an inalienable right to those living in the western world, but for some this is a celebration of sexual liberation, sexual protection and justice.
Ayan Mahamoud, resident representative, told The Guardian “It is the protection that really matters. Protection and support to give victims the confidence that they can rely on the system.” These encouraging words are for the victims who have suffered in silence and had to walk around in shame. For the women who had to potentially suffer from PTSD. Even though this statement was regarding the women in Somaliland, these words should give those around the word the courage to fight against their abusers. Regain your strength.
This milestone in Somaliland is just a step in one country that is an example of the power of justice that will echo into the nation’s future. So now it’s time for us as women, sisters, daughters, mothers, etc to stand up and claim our bodies. This new legislation will defend those present and generations to come. It is very unfortunate that some countries still don’t defend victims or have laws in place to give them a voice. Somaliland have stepped in the right direction and I hope to see this transition continue in neighbouring countries.
Written by Tolu Martins