An “alarming” 80 per cent increase in sexual violence in Somalia, as documented in two recent reports by the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, has been described as “appalling” by two UN Special Representatives.

“We urge all parties to the conflict in Somalia to immediately cease these violations”, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, and the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten said in a statement. 

The reports (the Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict and the Report of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.) documented that in 2020, 400 civilians, primarily girls, were victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence.

This represented an almost 80 per cent increase compared to 2019.

More than 100 cases of sexual violence against girls were verified by the UN in the first quarter of 2021.

Perpetrators often exploited the vulnerability of displaced girls, targeting them when they left camps to perform domestic chores, the reports noted. 

The report linked sexual violence to the prevailing conditions of insecurity in Somalia.

This was marked by political tensions in the run-up to national elections, inter-communal clashes related to land-based disputes, and a surge in extremist militant group Al-Shabaab’s activities, which intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the temporary suspension of security and judicial services, the pandemic also disrupted access to education and services for survivors.

Cases of sexual violence ​​attributed to Al-Shabaab has doubled, the report found, describing how the Islamist militant group continues to use sexual violence and forced marriage to dominate areas under their de facto control.

Violations carried out by clan militia has also almost tripled over the past year. These have been linked to a proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

In the vast majority of cases, the culprits remain unidentified, which perpetuates the cycle of impunity.

The two senior UN experts also expressed serious concern that over 15 per cent of all cases of sexual violence verified, were attributed to the government security forces.

Both the Somali National Army and the Somali Police Force, as well as regional forces, committed acts of rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and children, according UN News.

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