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Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Praise Somalia for its Efforts to Improve Political Governance, Ask about the Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation and Corporal Punishment

Meeting Summaries

 

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Somalia, with Committee Experts praising the Government for its efforts to improve political governance to consolidate peace, and raising questions about the prevalence of female genital mutilation and corporal punishment.

Hynd Ayoubi Idrissi, Committee Expert and Head of the Country Taskforce for Somalia, said that Somalia had been very transparent in its report. She commended the Government’s efforts to improve political governance with a view to establishing and consolidating peace.

A Committee Expert said that the prevalence of female genital mutilation was incredibly high, affecting upwards of 90 per cent of girls. What progress had been made in preventing female genital mutilation? Ms. Ayoubi Idrissi added that the Government of Somalia had experienced difficulties, including resistance from religious and clan leaders, in adopting the draft law, among other draft laws. What steps, she asked, was Somalia taking or planning to bring together differing views on these laws and establish dialogue with all stakeholders, including religious leaders?

Another Committee Expert addressed corporal punishment, saying that several laws on corporal punishment were being drafted. Would these be ratified soon? Was the State considering banning all forms of corporal punishment? Corporal punishment was widespread. Did the State plan to raise awareness about corporal punishment?

Introducing the report, Isak Hashi Jimale, Director-General at the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development and head of the delegation, said that one of the Government’s most important tasks was to develop a national plan of action for children in Somalia. It started the development process in 2020 and planned to ready the plan for a five-year implementation at the beginning of 2023. The Government planned to install and strengthen legislative and administrative measures to protect the rights of children in the State.

The delegation said that female genital mutilation was a serious problem, but there was a strong will within the Government to address the issue. A bill on female genital mutilation had been prepared and it was hoped that this would be examined by the Somali National Council with a high priority. Along with the bill, the Government would work on awareness raising campaigns and secure financial resources to tangibly reduce the number of affected girls. Sexual violence desks had been established within the police force to attend to cases of female genital mutilation. There was a need to end the culture of impunity regarding female genital mutilation and other sexual and gender-based violence.

On corporal punishment, the delegation said that there were legal frameworks being prepared that prevented the practice. The draft child rights bill required that no child should be subject to corporal punishment at home, in schools, prisons, or in any other place. In parallel to preparing this legislation, the Government was engaging in awareness raising campaigns through various media to ensure that the legislation had support. A focused campaign aimed at institutions dealing with children was also in place.

In concluding remarks, Ms. Ayoubi Idrissi said that the State party had major challenges ahead of it, but it also had several promising plans in place to tackle these challenges. The rights of the child needed to prevail, and for that to happen, the State party needed to take strong action and make immediate decisions. Such actions would promote change across society. The Committee wished the State party every success in achieving its goals of strengthening the rights of children.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Hashi Jimale thanked the Committee for the constructive dialogue. The delegation would take back the recommendations and observations of the Committee to Somalia and disseminate them. Mr. Hashi Jimale thanked the United Nations Children’s Fund for its support for Somali children.

Mikiko Otani, Committee Chair, in concluding remarks, said that the dialogue was a valuable opportunity for the Committee to learn about the situation of children’s rights in Somalia. The delegation had been frank and open in its responses regarding the situation in Somalia. Ms. Otani expressed hope that the concluding observations and recommendations of the Committee would be a valuable tool for engaging the various Ministries on children’s rights issues and achieving tangible change in the State.

The delegation of Somalia consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development and the Permanent Mission of Somalia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Somalia at the end of its ninetieth session on 3 June. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.

The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 11 May at 3 p.m. to consider the combined third to sixth periodic report of Cuba (CRC/C/CUB/3-6).

Report

The Committee has before it the initial report of Somalia (CRC/C/SOM/1).

Presentation of Report

ISAK HASHI JIMALE, Director-General at the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development of Somalia and head of the delegation , said that the Government of Somalia was fully committed to continuously work on ensuring all children’s rights despite of all the obstacles and difficulties that the country had faced over the last three decades. Somalia was a poor country, tormented by armed conflicts, famine, political divisions, social complexity, and climate and environmental factors.

Children under 18 made up over half of the population of Somalia. The situation of children in Somalia was improving, with more children being vaccinated, going to school and having their births registered, and an increasing number of families had sustainable water supply systems and access to health care. However, much more still needed to be done as Somali children and their mothers continued to suffer from multiple nutritional deprivations. Over 300,000 children under the age of five were acutely malnourished and the under-five mortality rate was among the highest in the world, with one out of every seven Somali children dying before their fifth birthday. In addition, the maternal mortality ratio was extraordinarily high, with one in every 12 women dying due to pregnancy-related causes; nearly every girl underwent female genital mutilation, and only four in 10 went to school.

As of January 2019, over 4.2 million Somalis, including 2.5 million children, needed humanitarian assistance and protection. Over 1.5 million people were expected to require emergency nutrition support and treatment, with 903,100 children aged under five projected to have been acutely malnourished from August 2018 to September 2019.

In December 2018, over 3 million children, out of 4.9 million in the country, were estimated to be out of school, including 1.85 million school-aged children who required urgent assistance. There were also an estimated 2.6 million people displaced in Somalia, including over one million in the last year alone, with women and children representing the majority of the displaced.

Somalia was actively at conflict with terrorist groups that carried out random and deadly terrorist attacks within areas that were controlled by the Government. In many instances, terrorist groups used children as fighters. The Government of Somalia had established a programme for receiving and screening former child soldiers, reintegrating them into communities and conducting continuous social outreach.

One of the Government’s most important tasks was to develop a national plan of action for children in Somalia. It started the development process in 2020 and planned to ready it for a five-year implementation at the beginning of 2023. The plan was being developed through a broad consultative process nation-wide. The Government planned to install and strengthen legislative and administrative measures to protect the rights of children in the State.

Questions by Committee Experts

HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Expert and Head of the Country Taskforce for Somalia, said that Somalia had been very transparent in its report. She commended the Government’s efforts to improve political governance with a view to establishing and consolidating peace.

Had Somalia considered withdrawing its reservations on articles 14, 20 and 21 of the Convention, as the kafala of Islamic law was expressly provided for in these provisions?

Was Somalia considering ratifying the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict?

The Government had experienced difficulties, including resistance from religious and clan leaders, in adopting a final constitution and the law on the rights of the child, the law on zero tolerance for female genital mutilation, and the law on sexual violence against children. What steps was Somalia taking or planning to bring together differing views on these laws and establish dialogue with all stakeholders, including religious leaders? Had the State established any exchanges or collaboration with other Muslim States?

What measures were being taken to ensure the implementation of children's rights through the national plan of action? What progress had been made in setting up the national commission on the rights of the child?

Ms. Ayoubi Idrissi asked what measures were envisioned to strengthen the coordination of the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development with other Federal ministries, as well as with state Governments and with civil society?

What steps were being taken to establish an independent human rights commission with independent commissioners?

What measures had been taken to clarify the functions and responsibilities of central and local Governments in the implementation of the Convention, strengthen the budget allocated to health and education, and combat corruption?

What steps were being taken to establish a disaggregated data collection system that could reflect on the situation of children's rights in all areas, including justice and protection?

The law on civil society had not yet been adopted by parliament. What measures were being taken to guarantee freedom of association and to enable associations to act independently?

Was the Government making efforts to harmonise State legislation and bring the legal age of adulthood to 18 to strengthen the protection of children and to combat child marriage?

What measures had been taken to guarantee the right of children to non-discrimination, and encourage their participation in the formation of legislation? What measures were being taken to establish a children's parliament?

Somalia had one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world, with acute malnutrition of children impacting their right to life. What measures were being taken to implement the social protection policy adopted by the Federal Government in 2019?

The Committee welcomed pilot birth registration initiatives in some jurisdictions in Puntland and Somaliland, but birth registration remained too low, said Ms. Ayoubi Idrissi. The nationality law did not guarantee nationality to all children born in Somalia or abroad, as under this law nationality was passed on by the father. What measures were being taken to generalise birth registration, ensure the equality of fathers and mothers in the transmission of nationality, and combat statelessness? What measures were being taken to guarantee the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression of children?

Another Committee Expert asked about the programmes in place that had tangible results in reducing violence against children. Was there any data available regarding such programmes? The prevalence of female genital mutilation was incredibly high, affecting upwards of 90 per cent of girls. What progress had been made in preventing female genital mutilation? Had religious leaders been convinced to campaign against it? Was sexual violence dealt with mostly in informal or religious settings? What concrete steps had been taken to encourage reporting of violence by children and prosecution and punishment of perpetrators?

There were several bills pending that would enhance child protection. However, the sexual intercourse related crimes bill contained problematic provisions such as outlawing sex outside of marriage. There was also no mention of marital rape, the most common form of rape in Somalia. Ten per cent of girls were forced to marry before 15 years old and 50 per cent before 18. Were there plans to amend this bill?

A Committee Expert addressed corporal punishment, saying that several laws on corporal punishment were being drafted. Would these be ratified soon? Was the State considering banning all forms of corporal punishment? Corporal punishment was widespread. Did the State plan to raise awareness about corporal punishment?

Another Committee Expert thanked Somalia for the information it had provided, which would highlight the gaps that remained in protecting the rights of children.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that articles 14, 19 and 21 were politically contentious as they were seen by some to be at odds with the kafala system. However, the articles would be reviewed again in 2022 and 2023.

There was an existing legal framework in Somalia preventing discrimination. The State was also planning to ratify the African Charter on the Rights of the Child. A child rights bill would be approved by the end of August 2022, and there were other draft bills that would prevent discrimination of children.

The Government was continuing to collaborate with stakeholders to improve the health care sector and increase its workforce. A strong legal framework was in place for the health care system.

A national human rights commission would soon be established, with an independent commissioner to be appointed by the Government before the end of the year. The Government was conducting an information campaign on the rights of children through a television broadcast twice a week. Posters, billboards and leaflets had also been prepared.

There was no specific budget dedicated to the rights of the child. However, the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development had started lobbying for such funds and was hopeful that a portion of the national budget would be devoted to child’s rights in the near future.

The Government funded free primary and secondary education, and also provided financial support for university students. The Government was working to strengthen and rebuild the State’s education system through funding and legal frameworks. More resources were necessary to achieve this goal.

There were legal frameworks being prepared that prevented corporal punishment. The Government would continue to review the draft child rights bill, which prevented corporal punishment at home.

The Government was collaborating with the United Nations Children’s Fund to strengthen its pilot birth registration programme.

Somalia was reviewing its stance on the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s Optional Protocols and discussing whether it would accede to them. Different stakeholders would be engaged to ensure that the Optional Protocols had widespread support.

Traditional leaders and civil society were being consulted regarding draft legislation protecting the rights of the child. The Government hoped to enact many of these bills this year. The national human rights commission would be a nine-member commission with a dedicated commissioner for child rights. The Government was also considering establishing a child rights ombudsman.

The Government was engaging in legislative review to harmonise the legal age of adulthood at 18 and establish a national constitution that enshrined the legal age of adulthood at 18. This legislative review would also address legislation on child marriage. There was also ongoing work to incorporate protections for child rights within the national development plan.

In 2020, Somalia established the National Corruption Commission. Within the Commission, there were commissioners working to assess how corruption affected the most vulnerable members of society.

The National Statistics Bureau had been re-established, and there was dialogue between stakeholders to improve and expand data collection, including data on the rights of the child. The Government was working with Federal states and the United Nations Children’s Fund to develop its data, which would then be used to inform policies.

Some Federal states had better protections than others regarding the rights of the child. The Federal Government was working on improving legislation in Federal states where it was needed.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert asked the delegation to be more specific regarding the legislation that was in place to prevent corporal punishment. What actual measures were in place to improve the situation of children?

Another Committee Expert asked why there were no women in the delegation? Why were there so few female teachers in Somalia? How did children demonstrate that they had Somali nationality? Was the Government actually working to prevent female genital mutilation? Was there a programme to prevent and treat obstetric fistula?

HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Expert and Head of the Country Taskforce for Somalia, asked how children who did not have access to schooling were reached by information campaigns on children’s rights. Had the Government made progress on establishing a national children’s rights commission? Would the commissioner for children be able to receive complaints from children? What was being done to bring together religious leaders to deliberate on legislation related to children’s rights?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that the national plan of action on children aimed to build infrastructure for protecting the rights of the child. It aimed to review national legislation related to children, strengthen children’s access to justice, and bring Somalia’s legislation in line with international standards. It also aimed to establish a child rights ombudsman. Further, it aimed to establish mechanisms for strengthening coordination between the Government and civil society organizations working on children’s rights. The national plan encouraged the development of local plans on protecting child rights. Another aim of the national plan was to develop tools for disseminating children’s rights, and train stakeholders regarding children’s rights.

There were significant issues in Somalia, and children were among the most vulnerable. There was no lack of empathy for the plight of children within the Government. Tackling children’s issues would take time. Awareness raising would be carried out across the nation regarding the protective legislative framework that was being prepared.

Article 20 of the draft child rights bill required that no child should be subject to corporal punishment at home, in schools, prisons, or in any other place. In parallel to preparing this legislation, the Government was engaging in awareness raising campaigns through various media to ensure that the legislation had support. A focused campaign aimed at institutions dealing with children was also in place. International experts and States that had gone through similar processes were being consulted regarding the implementation of this new legislation.

Female genital mutilation was a serious problem, but there was a strong will within the Government to address the issue. The Government’s aim was to fully eradicate the practice. The delegation would also ensure that future delegations contained women.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert appreciated the work being done by the Government to engage with relevant stakeholders regarding child rights legislation. Had traditional leaders changed their attitude regarding issues such as female genital mutilation?

Another Committee Expert asked if there was a national law prohibiting female genital mutilation? There was a draft law that had been developed in the past. What was the Government’s progress in preparing that legislation? Strong action was needed to eliminate female genital mutilation.

One Committee Expert commended the State party for acknowledging that family breakdown affected the protective environment of children. What was the estimated number of children and families living in poverty? What percentage of children were growing up in broken households led by women, including those that were internally displaced? What was the number of children separated from their parents? Were there any programmes that monitored how these children were faring? How many children had been reunified with their families?

There was a large section of children who were pastoralists, and outside of the normal frameworks of society. What concrete measures had been recently taken regarding the protection of pastoralist children?

Another Committee Expert said that actions for children with disabilities had a limited scope. Had progress been made in approving the law on disabilities? What measures had been adopted to prevent discrimination of children with disabilities, particularly within families? What actions had been taken to facilitate the inclusion of children with disabilities, for example within the education system?

What measures were being taken to broaden coverage in health care? Approximately 20 per cent of the population did not have access to health care. What had been done to provide additional resources to the health care sector and increase staff? What was being done to improve the health care provided for women? What measures were being taken to ensure that the national plan on health care was being implemented? What measures were being taken to promote breastfeeding?

Did the State party have plans to develop a programme for sexual and reproductive health aimed at teenagers? What measures were being taken to improve access to contraception? Was the State working to tackle stigma related to HIV/AIDS? What steps was the State taking to improve access to water and sanitation?

Another Committee Expert asked what measures the Government had taken to support asylum-seeking children to enjoy the rights granted to them by the Convention.

What measures were being taken to prevent the economic exploitation of children, and protect children from violence and other abuse? Was there a special law to combat forms of violence? What measures were in place to reduce the number of street children, and combat the trafficking, sale and abduction of children? What was the extent of child trafficking? Was there a national plan to combat trafficking? What administrative measures were in place to ensure justice for children?

Another Committee Expert said that enrolment levels in primary and secondary schools were low. What efforts had been made to reduce the gap between enrolment rates in urban and rural areas, and increase the enrolment rate, particularly for girls? Were there hidden expenses related to school education?

The Expert commended that the portion of the budget dedicated to education had recently increased dramatically. Would this trend continue? What efforts were being made to increase the number of accredited teachers? What measures were being taken to increase the security of schools? Had attacks on schools diminished?

One Committee Expert asked what measures were being taken to reduce children’s consumption of drugs and alcohol? What measures were being taken to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children? Could the State party provide information on children’s access to abortions?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that there was a provision in Somali law that specified that every child had the right to care. If care could not be provided by the child’s family, it would be provided by the community. The child rights bill also guaranteed that children who could not be cared for by their families would be provided with alternative care under the kafala system.

The social work programme responded to incidents of violence against children. The Government was working on increasing the number of social workers in the State with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund. The Government had supported the establishment of social work study programmes in universities across the State. The first cohort was due to graduate this year. Over 1,000 students in this programme were financially supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund. Students had undertaken awareness raising projects in local communities regarding COVID-19 and were assisting with drug responses in hospitals.

Every person who travelled to Somalia to escape danger or persecution would be granted asylum. The Federal Government was in the process of drafting an immigration law. Twenty-five per cent of internally displaced children had inadequate shelter, and many had a lack of food. To address problems with refugees and internally displaced persons, the Government had established a National Commission for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. The Commission was working on strengthening support for refugees and internally displaced persons.

There were provisions in Somali legislation promoting the best interests of homeless children. Most homeless children did not have access to school. Centres had been established to protect homeless children. A holistic legal framework was being established to protect children’s rights at the Federal level, and once enacted, this would be disseminated to state and municipal levels.

It was forbidden to exploit children though child labour. The national development plan included measures to protect children from child labour. Under this plan, awareness raising campaigns would be held to discourage child labour. A drug abuse policy was also being drafted, and the Government was conducting awareness campaigns to prevent drug abuse.

Somali legislation outlawed all forms of trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. A dedicated bill on sexual offenses was also being prepared. The Government was struggling to obtain funds to address these issues.

The national education policy had paved the way for the creation of the national education act. A strategy plan was being developed for supporting the education sector. Education levels were low throughout Somalia. There was a need for strategies to provide alternatives to formal education for pastoral children, and to encourage these children to obtain a formal education. A programme to support access to formal education had been developed but had yet to gain traction.

The State had undertaken a study of drug abuse amongst children, and had found that there was a need for more support for children using drugs at the local level. In response to the study findings, the Government was establishing support centres in various cities. It was also conducting information campaigns aimed at children on drug abuse issues and aimed to introduce harsh punishments for persons who supplied drugs to children.

Civil society organizations had reported that around one in four children were separated from their families, but this data was not reliable. The Government was working on obtaining reliable data on such separations. Such a study was dependent on financial resources, most of which were currently devoted to security issues. The Government hoped to strengthen data collection in the future with the support of civil society.

Responding to the treatment of children with disabilities was a challenge, but the Government was in dialogue with schools to improve their accessibility for children with disabilities. No child should be left behind. Child protection focal points were conducting awareness campaigns to promote children with disabilities’ access to education. Religious leaders also had an important role in ensuring that children with disabilities had access to education and health. The child rights bill prohibited discrimination of children with disabilities.

A comprehensive assessment of the role of public officials in preventing drug use had been carried out. The Government regularly held discussions on fast-tracking the establishment of more drug rehabilitation centres to support children who used drugs.

The issue of nationality for children was crucial, as was ensuring that children born abroad had full access to Somali nationality. A dialogue was ongoing to determine how to ensure that all children had access to Somali nationality. There were cultural issues that hindered the process of recognising the nationality of some children, but the Government was working to change public perceptions on this issue.

There were processes in place to ensure that all children had access to mainstream education. The Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development was in discussion with the Ministry of Finance to expand the budget for education.

The draft national education policy was being developed, and the new Government planned to take this policy forward and convert it into legislation. A key tenet of this policy was to make basic education free, without any hidden costs, and compulsory. It would also promote access to lifelong education. It was hoped that this legislation would be passed next year.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert addressed the problem of nationality of children. What was the core of discussions with stakeholders regarding this issue? Was the State party targeting the issue of discrimination of women as well as children regarding nationality? What were the real prospects of introducing legislation that guaranteed the nationality of women and children?

HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Expert and Head of the Country Taskforce for Somalia, asked about special protection measures regarding children involved in armed conflict. The Committee acknowledged the State party’s efforts to support former child soldiers. What was the State party doing to criminalise the use of child soldiers? What measures were in place to criminalise and prevent rape of women in conflict zones?

There was weak cooperation between the Government and civil society organizations regarding internally displaced persons; these organizations were unable to access camps for displaced persons. What was being done to provide these organizations with access?

The age of adulthood was not the same at state and Federal levels. What was being done to address this? Children who were deprived of liberty were regularly incarcerated with adults. What was being done to increase the skills of magistrates who dealt with children, and reduce the number of incarcerated children? What was being done to strengthen community-based justice?

Another Committee Expert said that the State’s awareness of the need to protect children with disabilities was positive, as were plans to upgrade facilities. Was there a specific plan designed to protect children and adolescents with disabilities? Realistic deadlines and targets were required to achieve the State’s goals. Who was responsible for drafting such plans?

Who was in charge of raising awareness about drug abuse and managing rehabilitation centres?

A Committee Expert said that there had not been enough information provided on measures in place to prevent female genital mutilation. What was being done in that regard? Were there action plans to reduce maternal and infant mortality? What did the State party plan to do to establish a minimum age for consent to marriage?

Were there paediatricians and psychiatrists available to provide support for children with drug addictions?

Girls had high dropout rates in schools. What was the reason for this? Why was the number of female teachers so low? Did schools have proper toilets, and did they benefit from the United Nations Children’s Fund “Wash” programme”?

Were there services in place to ensure early case funding for children with disabilities? What was being done to prevent early pregnancies? Were information campaigns carried out in schools?

A Committee Expert asked whether costs related to new laws had been carried out? For example, had the amount of money that was earned by people carrying out female genital mutilation been assessed?

Another Committee Expert asked if a hotline had been set up to receive complaints from children who were abused. Was the State party planning to establish a database on children needing protection? Had police received appropriate training in protecting child victims?

One Committee Expert asked how many children were in detention in the State? Were there specialised juvenile detention centres? How did officials assess the age of children who had no identity documents? What was the length of detention of children on average? Was solitary confinement used against children? Did military courts deal with children’s cases. The Expert said that this should be prevented. Poverty and radicalisation were causing children to become involved in armed conflicts. Others were recruited against their will. Were there policies to prevent these root causes for the involvement of children in armed conflict?

A Committee Expert agreed that there needed to be a strong push to clarify and harmonise the age of criminality and adulthood within legislation. The lack of response to sexual and gender-based violence was concerning. Did the State party plan to provide training to police forces on sexual and gender-based violence? There seemed to a lack of awareness in the police force of the issue.

Would legislation on sexual intercourse crimes, which failed to criminalise martial rape and put women and girls at risk, be repealed?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that there were articles in the Constitution that promoted children’s rights, and there was a Commander Order that prohibited recruiting children in military organizations. The Government was working with civil society organizations to release child soldiers and rehabilitate them. The Government treated former child soldiers as victims. The child protection unit undertook activities to identify and rescue child soldiers.

The majority of victims of child labour were boys. The Government was working on prevent child labour.

A juvenile justice bill had been implemented. This law specified that every child had the right to legal aide, with costs borne by the State. Rehabilitation services were provided for child offenders to ensure that they could re-ingrate into society. There were specialised juvenile detention centres. The Federal Government coordinated with focal points within state Governments and civil society to provide protection to children in the justice system. A database on child protection was being developed in discussion with the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Public officials were trained to protect women and children. Child protection committees had been established in several districts within the State, and a central Government committee trained these committees to provide support for children.

The issue of nationality of children was linked to the clan system, where linkage was passed from the father to the child. The issue was highly contentious, with a core group arguing that changes should not be made. The Government was holding discussions with communities to address the issue. The delegation expressed hope that tangible progress on this issue would be made in the next reporting period. The issue was included in the national development plan.

A rapid assessment of the situation of children with disabilities had been carried out, with recommendations made that were included in the national plan of action. The delegation hoped that the national plan of action would be rolled out in the next few months, and that 50 per cent of goals would be achieved within the next reporting period. The Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development would ask for more resources to achieve progress on the plan.

There was a lack of systems to gather data, but the national plan of action included measures to strengthen data collection systems. The Government would work with different institutions to create these systems.

The Federal Government was focused on strengthening formal justice systems and limiting informal community-based justice, which often led to miscarriages of justice. Informal community-based justice was still prevalent, but the Government was working to raise awareness about formal justice systems.

A bill on female genital mutilation had been prepared and it was hoped that this would be examined by the Somali Council with a high priority. Along with the bill, the Government would work on awareness raising campaigns and secure financial resources to tangibly reduce the number of affected girls. Sexual violence desks had been established within the police force to attend to cases of female genital mutilation. There was a need to end the culture of impunity regarding female genital mutilation and other sexual and gender-based violence.

There was no law prohibiting or allowing child marriage. The Government was working to harmonise legislation to establish 18 as the age of consent to marriage.

There were not enough female teachers, and the Ministry of Education was working on levelling the playing field for women to become teachers. The United Nations Children’s Fund was working to implement the “Wash” programme in all schools and reach every child with vaccinations. There was not enough information on sexual health provided in schools. The Government was discussing the implementation of awareness raising programmes regarding sexual health with school associations.

The Government was working to train police regarding sexual and gender-based violence and to encourage communities to report offenses. There were some offenses being reported, but the Government aimed to increase the number of complaints that led to verdicts. It was also working on increasing the number of females working in the police force who could speak with victims.

The sexual intercourse crime bill did not protect the rights of women and children, and this bill had been withdrawn. The Government was returning to the original sexual crimes bill and would work to enact this more comprehensive legislation as soon as possible.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert said that it was clear that obtaining resources was a serious challenge. Was the Convention well known amongst the Ministries, especially the Ministry of Finance? Were there efforts to raise awareness about the Convention?

Another Committee Expert said that girls with disabilities were exposed to the risk of sexual abuse. Rape was widespread and rarely punished. What could be done to help child victims of rape? Did parents know where to turn to get help and file complaints?

HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Expert and Head of the Country Taskforce for Somalia, said that there was a widespread practice where girls who were victims of rape were forced to marry their rapists. What was being done to prevent this?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that the Ministry of Finance was made aware of the Convention by a human rights focal point. The Convention had been translated into Somali. This focal point received training on the Convention by the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development. Focal points from various Ministries received this training, however the challenge was ensuring that these focal points made their Ministries aware of the Convention.

There was a culture of impunity regarding sexual and gender-based violence. The Government had initially focused on prosecuting offenders, but through the sexual offences bill, it was currently working on ensuring that victims were provided with appropriate support and redress.

To combat the harmful practice of forcing victims of rape to marry their rapists, the Government was in dialogue with community elders. This dialogue needed to be converted into action, and the Government would do so with high priority.

Concluding Remarks

HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Expert and Head of the Country Taskforce for Somalia, said that the Committee had learned many things about the situation in Somalia through the dialogue. Ms. Ayoubi Idrissi said that Somalia had major challenges ahead of it, but it also had several promising plans in place to tackle these challenges. The rights of the child needed to prevail, and for that to happen, the State party needed to take strong and immediate decisions. Such actions would promote change across society. The Committee wished Somalia every success in achieving its goals of strengthening the rights of children.

ISAK HASHI JIMALE, Director-General at the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for the constructive dialogue. The delegation would take back the recommendations and observations of the Committee to Somalia and disseminate them. Mr. Hashi Jimale thanked the United Nations Children’s Fund for its support for Somali children.

MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Chair, said that the dialogue was a valuable opportunity for the Committee to learn about the situation of children’s rights in Somalia. The delegation had been frank and open in its responses regarding the situation in Somalia. Ms. Otani expressed hope that the concluding observations and recommendations of the Committee would be a valuable tool for engaging the various Ministries on issues concerning children’s rights and achieving tangible change in the State.

 

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