The Guurti (the Upper House of the Parliament) approved the Rape Bill with changes. According to article 78 of the Constitution, the Bill will go back to the House of Representatives to debate the amendments proposed by the Guurti. The proposed amendment of the Bill affects 15 articles (1, 3, 4, 5, 9,10, 14, 17, 25, 29, 35, 38, 39, 40, 45). The House of Representatives has the power to either agree with the amendments proposed by the Guurti or to approved the Bill in its original form.
The main amendments made to the Bill are the following:
In the original draft of the Bill as approved by the House of Representatives, the definition of a child was any person under 18. The Guurti changed the age to any person aged under 15.
Consent is removed from the definition of rape.
The punishment is considerably reduced. The jail sentence that could be given to a person found guilty of a rape is made 5 to 20 years. If the victim is a child, the minimum is 10 years and the maximum 20. If it is a gang rape, it is 15 to 20 years jail term. According to the Guurti amendments, in any case, the maximum cannot be more than 20 years.
Article 9 forced marriage
The Guurti exempted fathers and grandfathers from a punishment if they are involved in forced marriage.
The proposed amendments made by the Guurti in article 17 is vague. In the form approved by the House of Representatives, the articles stated that there is no expiration time for reporting a rape case. The Guurti version says:
“The period of initiation of a case should be within 48 hours if there are no grounds delaying:
- The submission of the case or complaint of the sexual offenses; or
- The initiation of the prosecution of the case against the accused person held for sexual offenses stated in this law.”
Rape cases are already one of the least reported crimes in Somaliland.
Guleid Ahmed Jama
The director of Human Rights Centre, Hargeisa Somaliland