Somalia: Five men sentenced to death for gang-rape

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Five men have been sentenced to death by firing squad for the gang-rape of a woman in Galkayo, a town in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

According to the prosecutor, the accused  – four of whom are 18 years old and one 19 – pleaded guilty to raping the woman, whose name was not mentioned, on 22 February.

The verdict, which took place in a civilian court is very significant because until now, most rape cases in Puntland had been settled, amongst the families of the victim and accused, with the traditional elders often intervening and forcing both the antagonist and victim to enter into mostly a loveless marriage. The result of this marriage arrangement, critics argue, is that often, women are brutally raped, mistreated or even killed by men, who believe that their action would not be punished by the authorities – a typical case of impunity, to say the least.

However, the recent killing of a 13-year-old-girl in Galkayo last week may have changed that perception and has, perhaps, some argue, prompted the latest death sentence verdict. There has been a huge outrage since last week after the 13-year old victim was not only raped but was equally strangled with a rope. But that was not all. The victim’s teeth were broken and one of her ears brutally cut off. The barbaric deed was completed with the mutilated body of the victim deposited in the front of the victim’s family home – an animalistic act that prompted a huge outcry and a demand for justice.

With the latest harsh verdict from the court, it is now left to be seen whether, the death sentence would send a strong warning to other rapists, who see women as a sex object and indeed, less worth than a man.