Somalia To Allow Child Marriages After First Menstrual Cycle, Little Girls Can Be Forced To Marry

Somalia plans to pass a bill that allows girls to be married after their sexual organs mature, and the United Nations oppose lawmakers

Stats show that around 21% of young women in the world got married before turning 18. About twelve million girls get married before their eighteenth birthday every year. Today, 650 million of all married women actually got married as children.

Child marriage violates human rights, but countries are far from eliminating this harmful practice by 2030. The number of child marriages has seen a decline, but this “tradition” still exists. Somalia allows these marriages, and the country plans to create new legislation.

In Somalia, more than 45% of young women and girls got married or lived “in union” before 18 in the period between 2014 and 2015. The country tries to change this practice. There’s a new bill that will allow a girl to get married after her first menstrual cycle. This will put an end to all the hard work civil rights advocates have done to stop the nonsense.

Child marriages in Somalia

Authorities in Somalia plan to create a new bill that allows a man to marry a little girl once her “sexual organs mature.” In this way, families can force their daughters to get married.

The world is shocked after the introduction of the Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Bill. This bill may replace the Sexual Offenses Bill approved in 2018. The main focus of this bill was gender-based violence such as rape, child marriage, and sex trafficking.

The 2018 bill protected children, disabled people, and internally displaced individuals. Somalian police were made aware of their duties. The same applies to investigators and prosecutors.

The UN condemns the new bill

Ari Gaitanis, the UN spokesman in Somalia, criticized the new bill, explaining that it would fail all the little girls who are forced to get married.

“This proposed new bill, the Law on Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes, is deeply flawed and in serious breach of international standards,” Gaitanis said in a statement. “The original Sexual Offences bill, which the UN and so many others are calling for to be reintroduced, is a comprehensive bill which is more in conformity with internationally accepted standards.” [5]

Pramila Patten, the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, criticized the bill, adding that it’s a setback in the fight against children’s rights.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that the bill sends the wrong message to other states in the region.

The world learned about the new bill right before the celebration of International Youth Day on Aug 12. There’s an online petition, and people in Somalia approve it, too. Ilwad Elman with the Mogadishu-based Elman Peace center is a supporter, too.

“I don’t wanna see any Somali officials participating online to celebrate … when you’re trying to steal their childhood away from them RIGHT NOW with the intercourse bill legalizing child marriage,” tweeted Elman, referring to International Youth Day celebrations.

The coronavirus pandemic and sexual violence in Somalia

The new bill was introduced in times when women and girls are worried about their health and the pandemic. travel restrictions and stay-home orders have caused a spike in violence. The number of cases of female genital mutilation and other violent acts is on the rise.

A July report by the United Nations Population Fund reveals that 70% of the 300 service providers have noticed a dramatic increase in cases of gender-based violence.

A six-month lockdown may lead to 31 million additional cases of violent acts and another 15 million for every three months of lockdown.

The economy drop destroyed entire families, and parents force their daughters to get married young.

Somalia responds to criticism

The deputy parliament speaker Abduweli Mudey says that every MP has a different opinion on the bill. They want to pass the new bill after the lengthy discussion.

“We want to make sure it goes in line with Islamic law and traditions,” Mudey said.

Ben Fender, the British Ambassador to Somalia is concerned about the situation in Somalia. He calls out Somali authorities to reconsider their actions.

“Big moment for MPs to decide Somalia’s future values,” Fender wrote in his statement.