A Somali woman who accused government security forces of rape was sentenced to one year in prison on Tuesday after the court ruled that her accusation was false. A journalist who had interviewed the woman but never published a story was also sentenced to one year in prison.
The Somali court ruled that the woman had not been raped based on the testimony of a midwife who performed a “finger test.” According to the Human Rights Watch, the so-called “finger test” is “an unscientific and degrading practice that has long been discredited because it is not a credible test of whether a woman has been raped.” Mohamed Mohamud Afrah, the lawyer representing the journalist, told the BBC that he was not allowed to call witnesses or submit witness statements that provided credibility to the woman’s claims. Both were convicted of “offending state institutions.” The woman’s sentence was delayed for a year because she is currently breastfeeding.
The United Nations and the White House have issued statements condemning the decision. In a statement, a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the Secretary-General “urges the Government of Somalia to ensure that all allegations of sexual violence are investigated fully and perpetrators are brought to justice. Above all, it is essential that the rights of the alleged victim and the journalist to a fair and transparent judicial process, including the right of appeal, are fully respected.” Victoria Nuland, Department Spokesperson for the White House said in an official statement “Women should be able to seek justice for rape and other gender-based violence without fear of retribution, and journalists in Somalia must be free to work without being subjected to violence and harassment… We have raised our concerns directly with the Somali Government and have urged it to uphold its constitution, including with respect to media freedom, women’s rights, and due process of law.”
Media Resources: CNN 2/6/2013; BBC 2/5/2013; State Department “Concern About Somalia Rape Case Verdict” 2/5/2013; U.N. “Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Somalia” 2/5/2013
Somalia flag palm print isolated on white background from Shutterstock