The Somalian parliament are considering a bill that would allow child marriage once a girl’s sexual organs mature, and would allow forced marriage as long as the family gives their consent.
As reported by the Associated Press, the bill is a dramatic reworking of years of efforts by civil society to bring forward a proposed law to give more protections to women and girls in one of the world’s most conservative countries.
The new ‘Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Bill’ “would represent a major setback in the fight against sexual violence in Somalia and across the globe” and should be withdrawn immediately, said Pramila Patten, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence.
She also said that the bill weakens protections for victims of sexual violence.
“[The new bill] risks legitimising child marriage, among other alarming practices, and must be prevented from passing into law,” U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said this week. She also warned that, should the bill pass, it would “send a worrying signal to other states in the region.”
According to a 2014-15 analysis by the UN, more than 45% of young women in the country were married or ‘in union’ before the age of 18.
It’s not clear when the bill will be put to vote.
Many in Somalia are circulating a petition against the bill, including Ilwad Elman of the non-profit organisation Elman Peace. On Twitter, the activist said: “I don’t wanna see any #Somali officials participating online to celebrate #InternationalYouthDay on august 12th when your trying to steal their childhood away from them RIGHT NOW with the intercourse bill legalizing child marriage.”
You can sign the petition – titled ‘Stop the “Intercourse Bill” and pass the “Sexual Offence Bill 2018″‘ – on change.org.
“The Federal Parliament of Somalia is set to vote on a heavily amended “Intercourse Bill” that will further violate the human rights, agency and bodily autonomy of children, women and girls in Somalia”, reads the petition’s description.