Somali Rape Victim Sentenced to Jail

UPDATE (March 19, 2013): The convictions against Lul Ali Isman and the journalist who interviewed her, have been overturned and both have been released from prison. Isman was released earlier this month, while the journalist remained jailed with a reduced sentence. On March 17, Somalia's Supreme Court overthrew his conviction and released the reporter.

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A woman in Somalia, Lul Ali Isman, who alleges she was raped by security forces and the journalist who interviewed her, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, have been sentenced to one year in jail on February 5, 2013.

They are charged with insulting a government body and making false claims. The journalist interviewed Ms. Isman about the rape she suffered in late 2012 in a displacement camp outside of the capital, Mogadishu. He never published the story. Government officials claim the journalist bribed Ms. Isman to fabricate the allegation.

Charges were dropped against Ms. Isman's husband - who was detained after insisting his wife was raped - and two other individuals who tried to help her. The victim will serve her sentence after she finishes nursing her infant.

The international community has expressed outrage over what are seen as politically-charged motives for the sentence undermining the problem of endemic rape and gender violence in Somalia

Meanwhile, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told Al Jazeera that his interference in the judiciary system would not help the rule of law in the country. Of the case, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura writes:

"Thousands of women are raped every day in the context of conflict, but very few find the courage to come forward as this woman did. Instead of investigating those who allegedly assaulted her, it is the woman and the journalist who tried to tell her story who have been prosecuted and sentenced to prison terms in Somalia. This is completely unacceptable."

As the country rebuilds after more than 20 years of war, women activists in Somalia have demanded that the new government do more to investigate gender violence perpetrated by government security forces.

LEARN MORE

Zainab Hawa Bangura: Go After the Rapists in Somalia, Not Their Victims, The Huffington Post, 6 February 2013.

Somali woman who alleged rape given jail term, BBC, 5 February 2013.

The UK Should Show Leadership on Sexual Violence in Somalia, The Huffington Post, 31 January 2013.

TAKE ACTION

Sign the Avaaz petition "Somalia: No authority to rape" to put international pressure on the Somali government to stop rape by security forces, whose salaries are often paid for with foreign aid. UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura will deliver the petition directly to Somalia's president and to donor countries.

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