The Dangers of Reporting Rape Abroad

A 19 year old Somali woman was handed a suspended six-month jail sentence for defamation and lying by a Somali court in Mogadishu after she reported that she was raped to a news outlet. She will serve her sentence confined to her home. Meanwhile, the two journalists who reported her story were found guilty of defamation and insulting state institutions. They will serve out their sentences, of one year and six months respectively, or pay a fine in order to win early release.

This isn’t the first time a Somali woman has been arrested for reporting a rape this year. In February 2013, a Somali journalist and a rape victim he interviewed were both arrested and found guilty of “offending state institutions.”

These types of occurrences have also been reported in Dubai, an emirate that has strict rules about sexual intercourse and alcohol. In July 2008, a British woman, Michelle Palmer, was convicted after being caught having drunken sex with Vince Acors. They were both given three-month suspended jail sentences. In 2010, another British woman was arrested after admitting to illegal drinking outside licensed premises as well as having sexual intercourse outside of marriage. Her fiancé and her rapist were also charged. Most recently, a Norwegian woman was sentenced to 16 months in jail in June 2013 after she reported that she was raped. She was later pardoned.

Rape, and reporting on sexual assault, is one of the most sensitive topics in Somalia and in some other parts of the Middle East. Individuals travelling to any of these countries should avoid travelling alone, especially if you are a female traveler, and should always pay close attention to cultural practices.

Side Note: Individuals are advised against traveling to Somalia as the security situation within the country is extremely volatile and the threat of domestic terrorism is high.