LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Rape and sexual violence pose a “constant threat” to women and children living in camps for displaced people in Somalia, Amnesty International said on Friday.
Fear of being stigmatised and a lack of confidence in the will or ability of the authorities to investigate cases of sexual violence stop most of the victims – some as young as 13 – from reporting abuses to the police, the rights group’s researchers said following a trip to the country.
“Women and children, who have already been forced to flee their homes because of the armed conflict and drought, now face the additional trauma of living under threat of sexual attack,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Adviser.
Decades of conflict and a devastating famine in 2011 have displaced hundreds of thousands of Somalis who have sought shelter in overcrowded camps with poor security and where humanitarian conditions are dire.
A 14-year-old girl was raped in the camp in the capital Mogadishu where she had taken shelter to recover from an epilepsy attack in late August, Amnesty’s report said.
“I woke up to find a man who was undressing me and I tried to scream but he grabbed me by the throat and so I could not scream,” she told the rights group. “My four-year-old cousin woke up and he told her to be silent. He did his business and then ran away.”
In a separate testimony, a pregnant mother of five recounted her struggle with an armed man who entered her shelter and tried to rape her earlier this month. The woman eventually managed to fight the man off, but was shot in both hands as a result and lost the baby she was expecting, the report said.
Camp residents reported the attempted assault to the police who didn’t follow through with an investigation, according to the rights group, which said that some female victims of sexual violence have faced additional abuse and stigmatisation after reporting such crimes.
According to an Al Jazeera report on Friday, a young mother in Mogadishu reported being repeatedly raped by African Union (AU) peacekeepers stationed in the country. AMISOM – the AU contingent in Somalia – has denied the allegations.
The Somali government, often criticised for inaction against this type of crime, said it was deeply troubled by the alleged abuse by peacekeepers, Al Jazeera reported.
According to the United Nations, there were at least 1,700 cases of rape in internally displaced people (IDP) settlements in 2012 in Somalia, with at least 70 percent of these being carried out by armed men wearing government uniforms. Nearly a third of the survivors are reported to be under the age of 18.