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The many faces of violence against Somali women

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Crystal Huskey
WVoN co-editor

As Somali refugees continue to pour out of their native country, the incidence of violence against women grows.

It comes in the form of rape, abuse and the harsh living conditions present in refugee camps.

Some even face violent deaths as they try to reach safer ground.

On May 8, seven Somali refugees were reported dead on the coast of Malta, according to the UNHCR.  The victims included five men and two women.

Last year, an estimated 1500 people were reported missing or dead as they attempted to reach Europe.

The refugee camps in Kenya, set up for Somalis hoping to escape violence and famine, are minimal at best. There is still not enough food, and women have been known to bind their stomachs with rope in order to stave off hunger.

In Dahaab, the largest refugee encampment in Kenya, there are over 450,000 people, a number that is five times as many as it was designed for.

Nearly a third of Somalis have fled their homes. In Kenya, Somalis are beginning to be seen as a “dangerous element” and “extremist,” according to Women News Network reporter Gitonga Njeru.

Women are at the receiving end of this discrimination.

Not only do they face violence at the hands of their hosts or death as they travel to safer destinations, but domestic abuse is rapidly growing worse.

Somali native Nalisha Hussein recounts her experience in the camps.

“I moved to Kenya a few months ago from Somalia with my husband, nine children and other relatives, [and] problems worsened,” she said.

“I have been getting beaten up by my husband because he once caught me taking contraceptive inoculations. I used to take them without his knowledge.

“When I decided to tell him and talk of limiting the number of children we have, he began beating me and calling me a prostitute.

“I stopped taking them recently and I suspect that I am pregnant…,” she added.

This is of concern as western nations offer family planning aid to Kenya.  Education is key to changing the attitudes of Somali refugees when it comes to family planning.

One Somali man interviewed said that birth control is “too Western,” and that he would be “very angry” if one of his wives were using contraception.

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