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The Somali Parliament Sparks Outrage With New Law That Allows Child Marriages

Here's where to sign a petition to stop the proposed bill

The Somalian parliament is attempting to pass a bill that would allow child marriage once a girl’s sexual organs mature and their family gives consent. Many have begun an outcry against the proposed new law, which, as reported by the Associated Press, presents a dramatic reworking of years of efforts by civil society to bring forward new laws that give more protection 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“would represent a major setback in the fight against sexual violence in Somalia and across the globe” and should be withdrawn immediately, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Pramila Patten, said in a statement. 

According to a United Nations analysis in 2014-15, more than 45 per cent of young women in Somalia were married or “in union” before the age of 18, and the nation had signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution to child marriage in 2014. 


Patten 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 also said this week. Bachelet also warned that, should the bill pass, it would “send a worrying signal to other states in the region.”

Many of Somalia’s residents have begun a petition against the bill, including Ilwad Elman with the Mogadishu-based Elman Peace organisation. On Twitter, the activist said: “I don’t wanna see any #Somali officials participating online to celebrate #InternationalYouthDay on august 12th when you’re trying to steal their childhood away from them RIGHT NOW with the intercourse bill legalizing child marriage.”

The contentious new bill comes as women’s right groups have expressed concern that the ongoing pandemic and related travel restrictions in Somalia have worsened violence against women and female genital mutilation. 

You can sign the petition – titled “Stop the Intercourse Bill” and pass the “Sexual Offence Bill 2018″‘ – on

“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. “We are deeply concerned with the amended Sexual Offences Bill as it sets a dangerous precedent in a country already marred by gender-based sexual violence.” 

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