School girls or Brides?

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the world as we know it. Mandatory masks and offices closing down, however, in Somalia, the pandemic has affected another aspect that many would never even think of. The sexual intercourse related crimes bill has been recently drafted which would allow young girls to be married once they are ‘sexually capable’ and to allow a forced marriage as long as her family consents.

This new bill has been linked to gender-based violence, including child marriage and FGM, which has increased since the pandemic began. Many can attribute the rise in violence against young girls as a product of schools closing down to help contain the spread of coronavirus. Not only has this taken the children, fortunate enough to attend school, out, but it has also left them and their families wondering how they can return to education. This is especially the case for children living in more rural areas where the government’s effort at online education is falling short.

This new bill comes as a huge shock to thousands in Somalia as the country had already signed a charter back in 2014 to ending child marriage in 2020. MPs have criticised the bill as it conflicts with pre-existing bills and could be used as a campaigning tool, especially during Somalia’s political instability. Several civil rights groups and activists are fighting the bill; however, some have commented that the caretaker government status of Somalia is, unfortunately, making it difficult to add pressure to these issues in a “race against time”.

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