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 change.org.
"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."