The most common forms of Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) in Puntland include gang rape, domestic violence, early marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), and human trafficking. Puntland authorities have adopted different laws and policies to prevent SGBV and protect victims and survivors. These include the Puntland Constitution of 2012, the Puntland Anti-FGM Policy of 2014, and the Sexual Offenses Law of 2016. In addition, the government of Puntland has established two important institutions that play a significant role in defending victims’ rights: the Office of the Puntland Human Rights Defender and the Puntland Forensic Science Laboratory. Regardless of existing efforts and poorly functioning laws, most victims do not have sufficient access to justice. Challenges hindering victims’ access to justice include the following:
- Low public awareness of the judiciary system and its processes. Many rape survivors and their families do not bring cases to statutory justice institutions because of their deep-rooted culture, concerns about lack of confidentiality and distrust of the outcomes produced by these institutions.
- Preference for the Xeer (Somali customary law) over both Sharia and secular law. Secular law and Sharia both respect women’s individual rights, but Xeer, based on notions of communal rights, is prevalent and enforced by elders. Most people prefer to work through traditional elders instead of statutory institutions. Xeer employs an elder-to-elder approach, which is not as effective since the female victims are not involved; this leaves them at the mercy of the elders.
- Low female representation in government, particularly in the judiciary system. If more women served on courts and within justice institutions, this could make a difference.
- Low capacity of law enforcement institutions in understanding GBV cases.