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Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings (see also sections 1.g. and 2.b.). Military court prosecutors, with investigative support from police (Criminal Investigations Department), are responsible for investigating whether security force killings were justifiable and pursuing prosecutions, but impunity remained a significant issue (see section 1.c.). While reliable data was difficult to collect, reporting from the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) indicated that between November 5, 2020, and July 31, there were 441 killings of civilians in the country due to conflict. While al-Shabaab and clan militias were the primary perpetrators, extrajudicial killings of civilians by state security forces, and to a much lesser extent by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and other international forces, occurred.

On April 14, security forces executed a National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) officer after a military court found him guilty of killing a civilian on April 8 in Beledweyne. On May 24, a military court in Gedo region sentenced two former Somali Police Force (SPF) officers to death after they were found guilty of killing a male and a female civilian on January 6. Due to capacity problems in the civilian court system, authorities often transferred criminal cases, sometimes even involving children, to the military court system, even when military courts did not appear to have jurisdiction. Human rights organizations questioned the military courts’ ability to enforce appropriate safeguards regarding due process, the right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence, and the implementation of sentences in a manner that met international standards. Federal and regional authorities sometimes executed those sentenced to death within days of the court’s verdict, particularly in cases where defendants directly confessed their membership in al-Shabaab before the courts or in televised videos. In other cases the courts offered defendants up to 30 days to appeal death penalty judgments.

In the self-declared breakaway Republic of Somaliland, government and media sources reported an increase in killings of government officials and others in Las Anood, a city within an area disputed between Somaliland and the Federal Member State (FMS) of Puntland. In one high-profile case, local lawmaker Abdirisak Ahmed Elmi was shot and killed near his home in the city in September, just three months after being elected to his position in Somaliland’s May 31 local council elections. Shortly after his killing, the Somaliland government appointed a committee to investigate the recurring and increasing killings in the area, but at year’s end the committee had yet to render its conclusions or bring those responsible to account.

Al-Shabaab continued to carry out indiscriminate attacks and, in many cases, deliberately targeted civilians (see sections 1.g. and 6). The group conducted attacks targeting Turkish construction workers near Afgoye, guests at a hotel in Mogadishu, civilian Ministry of Defense staff, and villagers in Lower Shabelle, among many others. According to UNSOM, al-Shabaab was responsible for approximately 60 percent of civilian casualties between November 5, 2020, and July 31. On March 5, the terrorist group used a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED) to target a restaurant popular among government officials and security force members in Mogadishu’s Hamarjajab district, with the explosion nearly collapsing the building and killing at least 10 persons and injuring 30 others. On July 2, a person-borne IED detonated at a restaurant in Mogadishu’s Shibis district, reportedly killing 12 persons and injuring at least seven.

On August 21, AMISOM stated that seven persons killed on August 10 by AMISOM troops from the Ugandan People’s Defense Force conducting operations against al-Shabaab in Golweyn, Lower Shabelle region, were civilians. AMISOM convened a board of inquiry led by a senior officer and two other members from the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, a senior Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) official, and senior officers from AMISOM Military, Police, and Mission Headquarters to investigate the incident and take appropriate disciplinary actions as necessary. The board of inquiry found that the soldiers violated AMISOM rules of engagement in the incident, and on October 20, AMISOM took full responsibility for unlawful acts by its troops with respect to the killings. Ugandan authorities convened a court martial of their soldiers in Mogadishu on November 6, charging the soldiers with murder and the desecration of bodies. On November 11, the five accused soldiers were found guilty of seven counts of murder. Two were sentenced to death by hanging. The other three were sentenced to 39 years in prison on each count, to be served concurrently. They were granted 14 days to appeal their sentences.

According to a July 14 report to the UN Human Rights Council by the independent expert on human rights in Somalia, there was an intensification of fighting among clans and subclans regarding agricultural land ownership, pasture, and water resources, as well as revenge killings and struggles for political power, resulting in 199 casualties. Interclan clashes in Jubaland, Galmudug, and South West State resulted in civilian casualties and massive displacements. Reportedly, revenge clan killings and atrocities were so serious that military interventions and clan elder interventions were required to separate fighting parties and defuse tensions.

There were some cases of reportedly government-directed, politically motivated disappearances. Local media outlets and politicians reported on the disappearance of Ikran Tahlil Farah, NISA’s head of cyber security, on June 26 after being picked up by a car from her home in Mogadishu following a call from an unknown source. A former NISA official alleged that Farah may have been in possession of a list of Somali youth sent to Eritrea for military training under a clandestine program that drew increasing public scrutiny and outcry during the year. Under public pressure over its lack of investigation into Farah’s disappearance, NISA issued a statement on September 2 indicating that al-Shabaab elements killed her, a claim that the terrorist group immediately denied. Some parliamentarians reportedly implicated senior NISA officials in Farah’s disappearance. The agency’s resistance to investigating the case led to Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble’s removal of the agency’s director general, Fahad Yasin, on September 8. On November 21, military investigators announced that no evidence linked NISA to Farah’s disappearance, instead claiming that al-Shabaab abducted and murdered her. Media and other sources cast doubt on the findings, citing CCTV footage showing Farah getting into a NISA vehicle the night that she disappeared. Her mother denounced military investigators’ conclusions as a cover-up.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of Somaliland authorities.

Al-Shabaab continued to abduct persons, including humanitarian workers and AMISOM troops taken hostage during attacks (see section 1.g.).

As of September pirates based in the country held no hostages.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits torture and inhuman treatment, but there were credible reports that government authorities engaged in instances of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

NISA agents routinely conducted mass security sweeps against al-Shabaab and terrorist cells, as well as against criminal groups. The organization held detainees for prolonged periods without following due process and mistreated suspects during interrogations. In one example reported by Human Rights Watch, “Abdi,” age 16, related that NISA officials repeatedly beat him during an interrogation and left him bleeding for days.

There were multiple credible reports of rape and sexual abuse by government agents, primarily in the security forces (see section 1.g.). For example, on May 14, five members of a clan militia allegedly wearing SPF uniforms and working with Mogadishu’s Deynile district administration raped three women and attempted to rape two others. The SPF arrested three suspects in the incident, and on May 29, the Attorney General’s Office requested that the Banadir Regional Court examine them for biological evidence and DNA samples. As of December no results had been released.

Al-Shabaab imposed harsh punishment on persons in areas under its control. In August the group reportedly executed an 83-year-old man in Galmudug for blasphemy. In March and June, the group publicly executed persons, including civilians, accused of spying for AMISOM, the United States, and the Somali government. In some cases al-Shabaab forced community members to watch public executions.

AMISOM forces, which were previously implicated in rapes and other unspecified grave abuses of human rights while conducting military operations in the country, tracked and in some cases investigated reports of alleged abuses, including a civilian casualty event in August (see section 1.a.). The AMISOM Civilian Casualty Tracking, Analysis, and Response Cell carried out this mandated task.

Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment at the hands of clan militias, some of which are government-affiliated, remained frequent. There was a culture of impunity due to clan protection of perpetrators and weak government capacity to hold the guilty to account. Research indicated that such practices remained common along the road from Mogadishu to Afgoye at the hands of Hawiye clan-affiliated militias, some with strong ties to the Somali National Army (SNA).

At midyear, renewed conflict occurred among al-Shabaab, the Galjeel clan, and the Shanta Alemod clan, as well as with the relatively weaker Mirifle subclans, around Wanlaweyn, Lower Shabelle. Galjeel militias particularly targeted trade truck convoys and reportedly engaged in rape, looting, burning of homes and property, illegal checkpoints, and land grabbing.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Except for newly built facilities, prison conditions in most areas of the country remained harsh. Poor sanitation and hygiene, inadequate food and water, and lack of medical care were the norm.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding in urban prisons – particularly following large security incidents involving arrests – sometimes occurred. Authorities occasionally held juveniles and adults together, due in part to the belief juveniles were safer when held with members of their own subclan. Prison authorities often did not separate pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, particularly in the southern and central regions.

Authorities generally required the families of inmates to pay the cost of health services. Inmates without family or clan support had very limited access to such services. Disease outbreaks, such as tuberculosis and cholera, continued to occur, particularly in overcrowded prisons such as the Mogadishu Central Prison (MCP). Such outbreaks could be life threatening during the rainy season.

Information on death rates in prisons and pretrial detention centers was unavailable.

Al-Shabaab detained persons in areas under its control in the southern and central regions. Those detained were incarcerated under inhuman conditions for relatively minor offenses, such as smoking, having illicit content on cell phones, listening to music, watching or playing soccer, wearing a brassiere, or not wearing a hijab. Prison conditions in areas controlled by al-Shabaab and where traditional authorities controlled detention areas were often harsh and life threatening.

Administration: Most prisons did not have ombudsmen. Federal law does not specifically allow prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship. Somaliland law, however, allows prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, and prisoners reportedly submitted such complaints.

A joint UN assessment mission in April confirmed that the Garowe Central Prison (GCP) has a system for prisoners to submit complaints through officers and the prison commander.

Prisoners in the MCP, GCP, and Hargeisa prison had adequate access to visitors and religious observance. Infrastructure limitations in other prisons throughout the country impeded such activities.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities continued to work with international humanitarian and monitoring groups amid the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to some gains in access as these groups provided medical supplies and protective equipment for prison and detention center staff. UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) staff maintained regular access to prisons where UNODC delivered training and infrastructure support. Authorities allowed UNICEF, UNODC, and UNSOM to conduct joint inspections of prisoners during the year.

Somaliland authorities permitted some prison monitoring by independent nongovernmental (NGO) observers during the year.

Geographic inaccessibility and insecurity impeded such monitoring in territory controlled by al-Shabaab or in remote areas where traditional authorities controlled detention areas.

Improvements: In February an internationally supported project at the MCP improved the perimeter wall; constructed additional guard towers; and refurbished internal doors, locks, and gates.

Five prison facilities in Mogadishu, Baidoa, Beledweyne, and Garowe implemented a new prisoner record management database during the year.

During the year UNODC supported coordination between the Ministry of Justice and the State University of Puntland to provide psychosocial support for young and female prisoners at GCP. Social workers were assigned to the facility to allow prisoners to report cases of abuse. UNODC also supported the Garowe prison authority to inspect isolation rooms to prevent suicide and improve family visitations. The prison also improved policies and systems to separate young prisoners from adults and pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners.

Although the provisional federal constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, government security forces, allied militias, and regional authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained persons (see section 1.g.). The law provides for the right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their arrest or detention in court, but only politicians and some businesspersons could exercise this right effectively.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the government did not always respect judicial independence and impartiality. The civilian judicial system remained dysfunctional and unevenly developed, particularly outside of urban areas. Some local courts depended on the dominant local clan and associated factions for their authority. The judiciary in most areas relied on a combination of traditional and customary law, sharia, and formal law. The judiciary was subject to influence and corruption and was strongly influenced by clan-based politics. Authorities often did not respect court orders or were not able to enforce the orders. Without clear protocols and procedures in place for the transfer of military case to civilian courts, authorities prosecuted only a handful of serious criminal cases.

The lack of accountability enabled judges to abuse their power. Civilian judges also lacked the necessary security to perform their jobs without fear. Cases involving security personnel or individuals accused of terrorism-related crimes were heard by military courts.

In Somaliland functional courts existed, although there was a serious shortage of trained judges, as well as limited legal documentation upon which to build judicial precedent and prosecute widespread allegations of corruption. Somaliland’s hybrid judicial system incorporates sharia, customary law, and formal law, but they were not well integrated. There was widespread interference in the judicial process, and government officials regularly intervened to influence cases, particularly those involving journalists. International NGOs reported that local officials interfered in legal matters and invoked the public order law to detain and incarcerate persons without trial.

Traditional clan elders mediated conflicts throughout the country. Clans frequently applied traditional justice practices. Traditional judgments sometimes held entire clans or subclans responsible for alleged violations by individuals.

According to the provisional federal constitution, “every person has the right to own, use, enjoy, sell, and transfer property,” and the private home is inviolable. Nonetheless, authorities searched property without warrants.

Government and regional authorities harassed relatives of al-Shabaab members.

g. Conflict-related Abuses

Killings: Conflict during the year involving the government, militias, AMISOM, and al-Shabaab resulted in death, injury, and displacement of civilians. ISIS-Somalia claimed attacks against Somali authorities and other targets in Puntland, where it is based, but there was little local reporting on its claims. State and federal forces killed civilians and committed gender-based violence. Clan-based political violence involved revenge killings and attacks on civilian settlements. Clashes between clan-based forces and with al-Shabaab in Puntland and Galmudug states, as well as in the Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Lower Juba, Baidoa, and Hiiraan regions, also resulted in deaths.

There were reports of AMISOM forces killing civilians, either deliberately or inadvertently (see section 1.a.).

The execution of young prisoners who were held in GCP raised international concern. UNODC monitored another young prisoner who was given the death penalty and followed up with the national authority as the Puntland government formed a committee to evaluate the case in relation to the age factor.

Al-Shabaab committed religiously and politically motivated killings that targeted civilians affiliated with the government and attacked humanitarian NGO employees, UN staff, and diplomatic missions. The group attacked soft targets, such as popular hotels in Mogadishu, killing noncombatants. Al-Shabaab often used suicide bombers, mortars, and IEDs. It also killed prominent peace activists, community leaders, clan elders, electoral delegates, and their family members for their roles in peace building, in addition to beheading persons accused of spying for and collaborating with Somali national forces and affiliated militias. Al-Shabaab justified its attacks on civilians by casting them as false prophets, enemies of Allah, or aligned with al-Shabaab’s enemies (see also section 1.a.).

On January 31, al-Shabaab attacked the Afrik Hotel near the international airport in Mogadishu, killing five persons, including former SNA general and revered security official Mohamed Nur Galal.

UN reporting continued to track small-scale IED attacks and killings by ISIS-Somalia, primarily in Puntland, where the group maintained pockets of presence. On June 29, an ISIS-Somalia IED attack in Puntland killed one soldier.

Abductions: Al-Shabaab conducted kidnappings and abductions throughout the year.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government forces and allied militias reportedly used excessive force, including torture.  While some security force members accused of such abuses faced arrest, not all those charged were punished (see section 1.c).

Al-Shabaab committed gender-based violence, including through forced marriages.

Child Soldiers: During the year there were reports of the SNA and allied militias, the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jumah (ASWJ), and al-Shabaab unlawfully recruiting and using child soldiers.

The Ministry of Defense Child Protection Unit (CPU) was a focal point within the federal government for addressing child soldiers within the country, including within government armed forces. During the year the CPU carried out screenings of 3,296 SNA soldiers at SNA bases to raise awareness of unlawful child soldier recruitment and verify the number of children in Somali security sector units for corrective action. The CPU continued the use of biometric registration and reported that it was a useful tool for increasing accountability in police and the military and helping to detect and deter unlawful child soldier recruitment.

In the absence of birth registration systems, it was often difficult to determine the age of national security force recruits.

Al-Shabaab continued to recruit and force children to participate directly in hostilities, including suicide attacks. According to UN officials, al-Shabaab accounted for most child recruitment and use.

Al-Shabaab raided schools, madrassas, and mosques and harassed and coerced clan elders to recruit children. Children in al-Shabaab training camps were subjected to grueling physical training, weapons training, inadequate diet, physical punishment, and forced religious training in line with al-Shabaab’s ideology. The training also included forcing children to punish and execute other children. Al-Shabaab used children in direct hostilities, including placing them in front of other fighters to serve as human shields and suicide bombers. The organization sometimes used children to plant roadside bombs and other explosive devices. In addition, al-Shabaab used children in support roles, such as carrying ammunition, water, and food; removing injured and dead militants; gathering intelligence; and serving as guards. The country’s press frequently reported accounts of al-Shabaab indoctrinating children according to the insurgency’s extremist ideology at schools and forcibly recruiting them into its ranks.

Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at

Other Conflict-related Abuse: Armed groups, particularly al-Shabaab but also government forces and militia, deliberately restricted the passage of relief supplies and other items, as well as access by humanitarian organizations, particularly in the southern and central regions. Humanitarian workers regularly faced checkpoints, roadblocks, extortion, carjacking, and bureaucratic obstacles.

Denial of humanitarian access by armed groups, security forces, or security incidents was common. Al-Shabaab sustained attacks against security forces along main supply routes. Increased insecurity along these routes impaired delivery of humanitarian supplies. Throughout the year al-Shabaab seized main supply routes and limited movement of food and commodities trucks in Oansah, Dheere, Wajid, and Hudur districts. Al-Shabaab’s efforts to curtail the transportation of food and nonfood supplies into South West State resulted in increased food prices in this FMS. Economic blockades by the insurgency impacted several districts in the Bay and Bakool regions. Additionally, al-Shabaab reportedly displaced 3,800 households from Toosweyne in the Berdale district through evictions.

ISIS-Somalia targeted business leaders for extortion in urban areas and used violence when they did not meet extortion demands.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not effectively implement the law. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: On May 4, President Farmaajo named members of an Independent Anticorruption Commission, almost two years after he signed an anticorruption law. This fulfilled a requirement in the 2012 provisional federal constitution for the first time.  Nevertheless, punishment for corrupt acts by government officials was rare, and corruption remained one of the reasons that attacks against journalists and human rights defenders occurred with impunity.

The Financial Governance Committee – an advisory body that has no legal authority but is responsible for reviewing all government contracts for more than five million dollars – consisted of federal government officials from the Ministry of Finance, Central Bank, Office of the President, Office of the Prime Minister, and Office of the State Attorney General (approximately equivalent to a solicitor general), as well as the chair of the parliamentary finance committee. Four delegates were funded by international financial institutions. During the year the governance committee provided support to the federal government and federal member states on $7.3 million in competitive procurements for four rations contracts for security sector institutions, the first year of a port concession contract with the Turkish firm Al-Bayrak including $52 million in investments over five years for the port of Mogadishu, and a postponement in licensing for offshore oil bloc exploration in the absence of relevant legal frameworks.

The UN Panel of Experts on Somalia reported that it was investigating one possible violation of the charcoal ban during the year. Charcoal exports are banned by the UN Security Council and remained a corruption concern. Charcoal production for the domestic market continued in areas controlled by al-Shabaab, the Jubaland administration, and Kenyan AMISOM forces. The Panel of Experts expressed concern that significant stockpiles of charcoal, valued at more than $40 million, were consolidated at several potential export sites.

Somaliland had a national auditor and a presidentially appointed governance and anticorruption commission, but during the year they did not prosecute any Somaliland officials for corruption.

The UN Panel of Experts reported on the continued “taxation” by al-Shabaab, which extorted zakat (a Muslim obligation to donate to charity) and sadaqa (a voluntary charity contribution paid by Muslims) in the regions it controlled. The Panel of Experts found that al-Shabaab remained in a strong financial position and was generating a significant budgetary surplus. The Panel of Experts also found that although the country had taken steps to strengthen its financial sector to combat terrorism, al-Shabaab was far outpacing new FGS regulations, even on occasion using formal financial institutions to store and transfer funds.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, providing penalties of five to 15 years in prison for violations. Military court penalties for rape included death sentences. The government did not effectively enforce the law.  There are no federal laws against spousal violence, including rape.

According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and international and local NGOs focused on combatting gender-based violence, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, residents, particularly women and girls, faced greater risk of gender-based violence, including sexual violence. According to the Somali Women Development Center, more than 50 percent of gender-based violence perpetrators lived in the same home as survivors or were neighbors. Anecdotal and survey data indicated that the closure of schools and some workplaces, as well as a government curfew and social distancing measures, led women and girls to spend more time in the home. This factor placed them at greater risk due to the increased amount of time spent with potential or serial perpetrators, with fewer options to escape abusers. There were some data to indicate that COVID-19 led to a meaningful increase in sexual and gender-based violence in the country.

Government forces, militia members, and individuals wearing what appeared to be government or other uniforms raped women and girls. While the army arrested some security force members accused of such rapes, impunity was the norm. In Lower Shabelle and Wanlaweyn (see section 1.a.), most rapes of local civilians occurred at checkpoints or in farms and villages near checkpoints, which many residents believed were controlled by local militias.

The work of approximately a dozen women’s groups, civil society organizations, and health-care workers in Lower Shabelle helped reduce the effects of rape cases across Lower Shabelle, and to a lesser extent Wanlaweyn, despite the lack of an effective judicial system. The organizations provided treatment, counseling, community coordination, and training on gender-based violence throughout the region and at times joined the Lower Shabelle administration in community engagement once a town was cleared of al-Shabaab. In Wanlaweyn, NGOs provided limited counseling services to rape survivors.

IDPs and members of marginalized clans and groups suffered disproportionately from gender-based violence. Local NGOs documented patterns of rape perpetrated with impunity, particularly of female IDPs and members of minority clans.

Gender-based violence, including rape, continued to affect women and girls when going to collect water, going to the market, and cultivating fields. Dominant patterns included the abduction of women and girls for forced marriage and rape, perpetrated primarily by nonstate armed groups, and incidents of rape and gang rape committed by state agents, militias associated with clans, and unidentified armed men. As of July 31, UNSOM recorded at least 168 incidents of gender-based violence against 15 women, 151 girls, and five boys, including cases of rape or attempted rape, a figure believed to underestimate greatly the true total. Police were reluctant to investigate and sometimes asked survivors to do the investigative work for their own cases. Some survivors of rape were forced to marry perpetrators.

The United Nations recorded hundreds of instances of gender-based violence, including sexual violence against women and girls by unidentified armed men, clan militiamen, al-Shabaab elements, and members of the Somali police and armed forces. The 2020 Somali Health and Demographic Survey (SHDS) noted that cases of gender-based violence were underreported due to a “culture of silence.” According to the United Nations, in most instances families and victims preferred to refer survivors to traditional courts. In some cases these bodies awarded damages to victims’ male family members or directed the perpetrator and victim to marry, in accordance with local customary law. The United Nations customary law and sharia often resulted in further victimization of women and girls, with no justice for survivors and impunity for perpetrators. While the United Nations noted that the FGS approved a national action plan on ending sexual violence in conflict and the Somaliland parliament approved a sexual offenses act (suspended due to opposition from religious authorities), impunity remained the norm.

Authorities rarely used formal structures to address rape. Survivors suffered from subsequent discrimination based on the attribution of “impurity.” For example, on March 31, a Puntland police officer allegedly raped a woman in Bosaso. The Puntland police opened an investigation against the perpetrator but made no arrest.

Those seeking to investigate assault cases and hold perpetrators accountable sometimes faced violence and possible sexual assault themselves. For example, on March 23, four police officers, including the commander of Garowe Central Police Station, physically assaulted and beat the head of the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Child Protection Unit in Garowe. The female officer was reviewing the sexual violence cases registered at the police station, and the commander reportedly accused her of interference. A male police officer was also assaulted for trying to assist her. Authorities arrested the alleged perpetrators but released them the same day, and authorities later suspended the investigation into the incident. The Nugaal region police commissioner also reportedly prevented the female officer from further investigating rape cases and prohibited her from visiting police stations in Garowe.

Local civil society organizations in Somaliland reported that gang rape continued to be a problem in urban areas, primarily perpetrated by youth gangs and male students. It often occurred in poorer neighborhoods and among immigrants, returned refugees, and displaced rural populations living in urban areas.

Domestic and sexual violence against women remained serious problems despite laws prohibiting any form of violence against women. Intimate partner violence and coercion remained a problem, since 59 percent of respondents to the SHDS said husbands committed the largest number of violent acts against women in the community, and 12 percent of married women reported spousal abuse within the prior year. While both sharia and customary law address the resolution of family disputes, women were not included in the decision-making process. Exposure to domestic violence was also significantly heightened in the context of displacement and socioeconomic destitution. Survivors faced considerable obstacles accessing necessary services, including health care, psychosocial support, and justice and legal assistance; they also faced reputational damage and exclusion from their communities. In several cases survivors and providers of services for gender-based violence survivors were directly threatened by authorities when such abuses were perpetrated by men in uniform.

Al-Shabaab also committed gender-based violence, primarily through forced marriages. Al-Shabaab sentenced persons to death for rape. The organization forced marriages on girls and women between the ages of 14 and 20 in villages under its control. The families of the girls and young women generally had little choice but to acquiesce or face violence.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the provisional federal constitution describes female “circumcision” as cruel and degrading, equates it with torture, and prohibits the circumcision of girls, FGM/C was almost universally practiced throughout the country. According to the SHDS, FGM/C remained widespread in the country, with 99 percent of women and girls between 15 and 49 having received the procedure.

A 2018 fatwa issued by the Somaliland Ministry of Religious Affairs condemned the most severe forms of the practice of FGM/C and allowed FGM/C victims to receive compensation but did not specify punishments for the practice. Health workers from the Somaliland Family Health Association traveled from village to village to explain that FGM/C had no health benefits and could lead to health complications. Type III (infibulation), which is considered the most extreme form of FGM, was the predominant type.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Adultery in al-Shabaab-controlled areas was punishable by death. Child, early, and forced marriages frequently occurred (see section 6 on Children).

Sexual Harassment: The law provides that workers, particularly women, shall have a special right of protection from sexual abuse and discrimination. Nevertheless, sexual harassment was believed to be widespread.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The country had not established a legal and policy framework on family planning. According to the SHDS, 38 percent of women expressed a desire for greater birth spacing than was preferred in their families, and only 3 percent reported that desire met. Most women surveyed said six or more children was the ideal family size, and the majority of births were wanted. Immediate and long-term reproductive health consequences were associated with the dominant form of FGM/C practiced, Type III infibulation, ranging from menstrual and urination disorders to prolonged and obstructed labor, sometimes resulting in fetal death and obstetric fistula. (See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) subsection for additional information.).

The country’s legal and policy framework on family planning was not in place, but contraceptives were available. Fewer than 1 percent of women of reproductive age had their needs for family planning satisfied with modern methods; discussions concerning sexual and family planning matters remained limited to close family and friends. Government officials reporting to the international Family Planning 2020 Initiative (FP2020) stated “multidimensional barriers” frustrated the expansion of family planning services. The officials also noted that traditional beliefs and a lack of support from community and religious leaders negatively impacted the acceptance of family planning services. Academic research indicated that religious leaders, an important source of influence in society, remained open to the use of contraceptives for birth spacing but not for limiting births.

According to the 2020 SHDS, by the age of 49, 68 percent of married women were aware of one method of contraception. Only 50 percent of married girls ages 15-19 had heard of at least one. Despite this awareness, the SHDS found that contraceptive use was 10 percent for girls ages 15-19 and 7 percent for women ages 30-34. According to FP2020, the Somali government remained committed to expanding quality reproductive health services and sought to put in place legal policy and strategic frameworks for family planning, but progress was slow.

According to the SHDS, 68 percent of mothers received no antenatal care, and only 32 percent of births were delivered with the assistance of a skilled health-care provider, with access strongly associated with education levels and wealth. The United Nations attributed these shortcomings to the high cost of health care and distance to health facilities. Additionally, the practice of seeking consent from a spouse or male relative presented a cultural barrier to seeking care. In 2020 the Danish Immigration Service reported that medical facilities in some areas dominated by one clan may bar female patients from another clan or group, specifically from minority and marginalized groups, from accessing health care in those locations.

According to the SHDS, 17 percent of female survivors of gender-based violence ages 15-49 sought care after an assault. The government provided limited and largely donor-funded access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, according to NGOs.

The high maternal death rate of 1,168 per 100,00 live births was attributed to numerous factors. Health facilities were unevenly distributed countrywide. Delivery care and involvement of skilled birth attendants were limited. Women’s cultural and geographic isolation compounded these factors.

The SHDS reported 99 percent of women underwent FGM/C. Citizens were generally not aware of its implications for maternal morbidity, but 72 percent of respondents believed that FGM/C was a religious requirement.

The adolescent birth rate was 140 per 100,000 women.

While data on access to menstruation hygiene was difficult to obtain, UNFPA reporting in May indicated that most young girls in Mogadishu had missed classes during their menstruation period, affecting their performance in school. The UN agency highlighted circumstances in which this problem drove women and girls to drop out of school. This particularly affected female IDPs. Based on cultural norms, most adolescent girls who became pregnant either were not in school or dropped out due to motherhood duties.

Discrimination: Women did not have the same status as men and experienced systematic subordination to men, despite provisions in the law prohibiting such discrimination.  Women experienced discrimination in credit, education, politics, and housing.

Only men administered sharia, which often was applied in the interests of men. According to sharia and the local tradition of blood compensation, anyone found guilty of the death of a woman paid to the victim’s family only one-half the amount required to compensate for a man’s death.

The exclusion of women was more pronounced in al-Shabaab-controlled areas, where women’s participation in economic activities was perceived as anti-Islamic.

While formal law and sharia provide women the right to own and dispose of property independently, various legal, cultural, and societal barriers often prevented women from exercising such rights. By law girls and women could inherit only one-half the amount of property to which their brothers were entitled. There were legal barriers to women working the same hours as men and restrictions on women’s employment in some industries.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

More than 85 percent of the population shared a common ethnic heritage, religion, and nomad-influenced culture. In most areas the dominant clan excluded members of other groups from effective participation in governing institutions and subjected them to discrimination in employment, judicial proceedings, and access to public services.

Minority groups, often lacking armed militias, continued to be disproportionately subjected to killings, torture, rape, kidnapping for ransom, and looting of land and property with impunity by faction militias and majority clan members, often with the acquiescence of federal and local authorities. Many minority communities continued to live in deep poverty and to suffer from numerous forms of discrimination and exclusion. Some observers believed minority clans’ resentment concerning abuses made them more vulnerable to recruitment by al-Shabaab. Bantu advocacy groups stated the community’s isolation from the government’s security sector integration efforts pushed some Bantu youth into joining al-Shabaab.

Bantu communities, primarily living between the Juba and Shabelle Rivers in the southern part of the country, continued to face discrimination, including verbal abuse and being forced to adopt Arabic names. The discrimination also occurred in IDP camps, where Bantu women were not protected by traditional clan structure.

Fighting between clans resulted in deaths and injuries (see section 1.g.).


Birth Registration: Nationality is derived at birth from a Somali national father but not from the mother, nor from birth in the country’s territory.  Children of Somali mothers may acquire Somali nationality after two years. The provisional federal constitution provides that there is only one Somali citizenship and calls for a special law defining how to obtain, suspend, or lose it, but as of year’s end, parliament had not passed such a law.

Authorities reportedly registered only a small percentage of births in the country. Failure to register births did not result in denial of public services such as education.

Although birth registration occurred in Somaliland, numerous births in the region were unregistered.

Education: The law provides the right to a free education up to the secondary level, but education was not free, compulsory, or universal.  In many areas children did not have access to schools.  Nearly two-thirds of the school-age population remained out of school due to barriers such as poverty in rural areas, lack of security, lack of schools or long distances to schools, and competing household and labor demands. NGOs and nonstate private actors attempted to fill this gap, but they used different curricula, standards, and languages of instruction. Preprimary Islamic education continued to be prevalent and often led to late primary student enrollment.  Girls faced additional obstacles such as early marriage and low prioritization of girls’ education, leading to even lower attendance (see subsection Women, Reproductive Rights.) IDP children had much lower rates of attendance than nondisplaced children.  There was an insufficient supply of qualified teachers, particularly female teachers.

The government failed to provide effective education countrywide, a gap partially filled by NGOs and nonstate private actors; education opportunities were often limited to more secure urban areas.

Child Abuse: Child abuse and rape of children were serious problems, and there were no known efforts by the federal government or regional governments to combat child abuse. Children remained among the chief victims of societal violence.

The practice of asi walid, whereby parents place their children in dhaqan celis (“returning to (Somali) culture”) boarding schools, other institutions, and sometimes prison for disciplinary purposes and without any legal procedure, continued throughout the country. Physical abuses and sexual assault in these facilities were common.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law requires both marriage partners to have reached the “age of maturity” and defines a child as a person younger than 18 but does not specifically outlaw child marriage. It notes marriage requires the free consent of both the man and woman to be legal. Early marriages frequently occurred. UNICEF estimated in 2006 that 45 percent of women married before age 18 and 9 percent before age 15. According to the SHDS, more than 62 percent of married women and 74 percent of unmarried women ages 15-49 indicated they understood forced marriage as a form of domestic violence. In areas under its control, al-Shabaab arranged compulsory marriages between its soldiers and young girls and used the lure of marriage as a recruitment tool for its soldiers. There were no known efforts by the government or regional authorities to prevent child, early, and forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law does not expressly prohibit using, procuring, and offering a child for commercial sex, pornography, or pornographic performances. Additionally, children exploited in commercial sex are not protected from criminal charges under the law. There is no statutory rape law or minimum age for consensual sex. The law does not expressly prohibit child pornography. The law on sexual exploitation was rarely enforced, and such exploitation reportedly was frequent.

Displaced Children: There was a large population of IDPs and children who lived and worked on the streets. UNICEF estimated that 1.9 million of the 2.9 million total IDPs were children. Approximately 50 percent of refugees and asylum seekers were younger than 18 years old.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at

There was no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

The law provides equal rights before the law for persons with disabilities and prohibits the state from discriminating against them. Authorities did not enforce these provisions, and disability rights organizations reported a widespread lack of equal access to education, health services, public buildings, and transportation. The law does not discuss discrimination by nongovernmental actors.

The needs of most persons with disabilities were not addressed. According to Amnesty International, persons with disabilities faced daily human rights abuses, such as unlawful killings; violence including rape and other forms of gender-based violence; forced evictions; and lack of access to health care, education, or an adequate standard of living. Government responses to such reports remained inadequate. Children and adults with all types of disabilities were often not included in programs aimed at supporting persons in the country, including humanitarian assistance. IDPs with disabilities were often victims of multiple forced evictions. Domestic violence and forced marriage were prevalent practices affecting persons with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities faced an increased risk of rape and other forms of gender-based violence, often with impunity, due to perceptions that their disabilities were a burden to the family or that such persons were of less value and could be abused.

Without a public health infrastructure, few services existed to provide support or education for persons with mental disabilities. It was common for such persons to be chained to a tree or restrained within their homes.

Local organizations advocated for the rights of persons with disabilities with negligible support from local authorities.

Persons with HIV or AIDS continued to face discrimination and abuse in their local communities and by employers in all regions. The United Nations reported that persons with HIV or AIDS experienced physical abuse, rejection by their families, and workplace discrimination and dismissal. Children of HIV-positive parents also suffered discrimination, which hindered access to services. There was no official response to such discrimination.

The law criminalizes “carnal intercourse with a person of the same sex” with a penalty of three months’ to three years’ imprisonment. Under Sharia homosexuality is punishable by death. There were no known executions during the year under this law; however, there were accounts over the past decade of militant Islamist groups such as al-Shabaab executing men for alleged homosexual acts. There remained a pervasive social stigma against same-sex relationships, and the law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There were few, very discreet, and mostly online-based LGBTQI+ organizations that held events.

There were few reports of societal violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity due to severe societal stigma that prevented LGBTQI+ individuals from making their sexual orientation or gender identity known publicly. Anecdotal information indicated that some families sent children they suspected of being homosexual to reform schools in the country or forced them to enter heterosexual marriages but reporting on conversion therapy largely stayed out of the public sphere. There were no known actions to investigate or punish those complicit in abuses. Hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms do not exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTQI+ community.

In Somaliland the situation was largely the same. Same-sex relationships were illegal and socially taboo.

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