Row in Somalia over ‘forced child marriage’ bill

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Farah Yussuf BBC Monitoring, Nairobi

Somali activists have started a petition urging parliament to reject proposed legislation that, the say, could allow child and forced marriages.

The petition, signed by more than 6,000 people so far, says the proposed legislation contravene the country’s constitution and international conventions.

“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,” the petition says.

The UK ambassador to Somalia, Ben Fender, has weighed in on the issue, tweeting that the “new draft allows marriage at puberty, plus says a forced marriage is one where the family (not individual) doesn’t consent”.

The United Nations has also criticised the bill, describing it as deeply-flawed.

The bill has been stuck in parliament for the last two years.

Activists say sexual violence is on the rise in Somalia but victims are often reluctant to file complaints due to stigma and cultural taboos.