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1 April 2024 - News



 MOGADISHU, 31 March 2024 –Somalia's lawmakers approved constitutional amendments on March 30th that could undermine child rights protections, Save the Children cautiously welcomes the decision by the constitution review committee asking Somalia’s parliament to set aside articles 28 (2) and 29 touching the age definition of a child and child rights for further discussion. Save the Children renews its urgent call for Somalia's lawmakers to fully defend and preserve robust legal safeguards for children's rights and wellbeing as the constitutional process continues.

The amendments initially proposed sought to redefine the age of a child from under 18 years old to under just 15 for the "age of maturity". This change directly contradicts international standards and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Somalia has ratified. As this exposes girls below the age of 18 to a greater risk of child marriage.

 Child marriage remains a pressing issue, with 17% of girls married before age 15 and 36% before 18 according to Girls Not Brides data.[1] Child brides face overwhelming dangers of gender-based violence, human rights violations, disrupted education, poverty, serious health complications from early pregnancy, and entrenched cycles of disadvantage passed to their own children.

Save the Children’s Acting Country Director for Somalia, Binyam Gebru said:

Children in Somalia are already facing immense challenges due to deep-rooted poverty, lack of access to education, displacement caused by conflicts and climate change-related crises, and widespread deprivations of their basic rights. Constitutional amendments enabling further violations like child marriage are unacceptable. We urge lawmakers to uphold the current constitutional standard to preventing child marriage, prohibiting FGM, and ensuring the dignity and wellbeing of every child in Somalia."

With the age definition article on hold, concerns persist that the amendments passed could enable certain forms of female genital mutilation (FGM) by not comprehensively prohibiting the practice as defined by the World Health Organization.

FGM prevalence rates in Somalia are among the highest globally, with 98% of girls aged 5-11 having undergone this extreme form of gender-based violence and abuse[2]. FGM can cause severe and lifelong physical and psychological consequences including excessive bleeding, infections, childbirth complications, trauma, anxiety, depression, and loss of sexual function and pleasure. No girl should suffer this violation of her fundamental rights and dignity.

As the constitutional process moves forward, Save the Children urges lawmakers to defend and preserve child rights standards, including maintaining the definition of a child as under 18 and explicitly banning all forms of FGM. Somalia's children deserve a future free from these devastating human rights violations.

Save the Children has worked in Somalia for over 70 years, since 1951, and believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding more than 100 years ago, we've been advocating for the rights of children worldwide. In Somalia and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming the future we share.