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Somalia: UN expert urges greater efforts to tackle violence against women

Article / Review by on December 16, 2011 – 8:28 pmNo Comments

Somalia: UN expert urges greater efforts to tackle violence against women

A displaced woman with two children after fleeing their home in southern Somalia. Photo: UNHCR/B.BannonA displaced woman with two children after fleeing their home in southern Somalia. Photo: UNHCR/B.Bannon

An independent United Nations human rights expert today called for greater efforts to improve the plight of women in Somalia, thousands of whom remain extremely vulnerable to discrimination and violence.

“While I support the Government’s tentative efforts to address the issues of violence against women, I note that there still are many challenges for the full and effective participation of women in the political process,” said Rashida Manjoo, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

Violence against women is a manifestation of inequality and discrimination which cannot be addressed in isolation of the historical and current context.

During her eight-day mission, Ms. Manjoo met with UN and international agencies based in Nairobi, and then travelled to Garowe in Puntland and Mogadishu, the Somali capital, to meet with Government officials and representatives of the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) and civil society.

She also visited camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and police stations, and talked with individual victims of gender-based violence.

Ms. Manjoo noted the lack of substantive reporting of violence against women and girls, and the absence of proper statistics and data, by the authorities, international agencies and civil society.

“The absence of accountability mechanisms and specialized services for women and girl victims of various forms of violence, also contributes to such invisibility and silencing.”

Somalia is also not immune to the problem of domestic violence, the most pervasive form of violence against women, the expert said, adding that the problem is exacerbated by the internal conflict, the displacement of populations and non-functioning State authorities.

“In the absence of accountability mechanisms, impunity for acts of violence against women and girls is the norm. Furthermore, the use of traditional dispute forums to resolve issues of violence against women results in little or no justice for such victims.”

Ms. Manjoo stressed that Somalia currently has an opportunity to promote human rights for all, and to place the issue of violence against women on the national agenda.

“I call on all stakeholders to take on the responsibility to make this a reality,” stated the expert, who reports in an independent and unpaid capacity to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Her full report on Somalia will be submitted to the Council next June.

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About Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 

Who we are

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) represents the world’s commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. We have a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights.

Leadership

The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations. The High Commissioner heads OHCHR and spearheads the United Nations’ human rights efforts. We offer leadership, work objectively, educate and take action to empower individuals and assist States in upholding human rights. We are a part of the United Nations Secretariat with our headquarters in Geneva.

The Office’s priorities are set out in two key strategic documents: the OHCHR Plan of Action and its Strategic Management Plan 2010-2011. These priorities include greater country engagement, working closely with our partners at the country and local levels, in order to ensure that international human rights standards are implemented on the ground; a stronger leadership role for the High Commissioner; and closer partnerships with civil society and United Nations agencies.

United Nations human rights system

We also support the work of the United Nations human rights mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Council and the core treaty bodies set up for monitoring State Parties’ compliance with international human rights treaties, promote the right to development, coordinate United Nations human rights education and public information activities, and strengthens human rights across the United Nations system. We work to ensure the enforcement of universally recognized human rights norms, including through promoting both the universal ratification and implementation of the major human rights treaties and respect for the rule of law.

Our structure

We have an office at United Nations headquarters in New York and offices in numerous countries and regions. In addition to the Executive Office of the High Commissioner and a number of units that report to the Deputy High Commissioner, OHCHR has two major divisions and four branches.

To implement our comprehensive mandate, we employ more than 850 staff (last update in April 2007), based in Geneva and New York and in 11 country offices and seven regional offices around the world, including a workforce of some 240 international human rights officers serving in UN peace missions.  We are funded from the United Nations regular budget and from voluntary contributions from Member States, intergovernmental organizations, foundations and individuals.

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> United Nations (UN).

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN / Eskinder Debebe The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

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* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

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