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Protests erupt in Somalia over ‘husbands killing wives’

Wednesday February 7, 2024


Three women were killed in Somalia last week in what police say were marriage disputes. The country’s parliament called for urgent investigations and the arrest of the perpetrators as citizens expressed outrage.

The killings occurred in Mogadishu, the Lower Shabelle region and the Qoryooley District. One woman was stabbed, a second shot and a third set on fire — all allegedly at the hands of their husbands.

The police chief of the Banadir region that includes Mogadishu, Moalim Mahdi, pledged to bring the offenders to justice.

Gender-based violence remains prevalent in Somalia. The situation is worsened by the absence of strong legal frameworks to deter attacks.

In 2020, parliament debated a controversial bill to address gender-based violence but was forced to hold it back following local and international pressure over clauses that allowed for child and forced marriage and other violations of women’s rights.

Amina Haji Elmi, director of the Mogadishu-based advocacy group Save Somali Women and Children, said, "Somali women, alongside others, have been living in the war-ravaged country. They were victimised by both natural disasters and man-caused problems.

Currently, women are facing many challenges; among them are lack of support and poverty. They do not get protection and support after incidents.”

Elmi called on security agencies to deliver justice to the families of those killed.

“We strongly condemn the heinous acts against these innocent women,” Elmi said. “It is sad to hear that a mother is being killed in front of her children. We call upon the security agencies to bring the perpetrators to justice. We extend condolences to the families of these victims.”

Members of parliament decried the killings during a debate Saturday and called for the offenders to be prosecuted.

Despite the condemnations, Somali lawmakers have yet to pass the UN-backed Sexual Offenses Bill that the Council of Ministers approved in 2018. Female MP Gobsan Muhumed was among those who spoke during the session.

"It is heartbreaking for paternal orphans to witness their mother being burned by their stepfather, who was laughing at the time of the incident," she said.

On Sunday in the southwestern town of Afgooye, another man was arrested in possession of gasoline and a matchbox amid allegations he intended to set his wife and children on fire.

Prosecutors in Somalia rely on provisions of the 1970s penal code to charge perpetrators of sexual and other gender-related offenses. Critics say this law is not tough enough and have called for the government to adopt harsher penalties.


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