Unconstitutional Act of the Speaker of the Federal Parliament to Send the Sexual Offenses Bill (SOB) Back to the Executive

The Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) strongly condemns the reckless, unprocedural and utterly unconstitutional decision of the Speaker of the Federal Parliament to unilaterally send the Sexual Offences Bill (SOB) back to the Executive (Council of Ministers), without any consideration for parliamentary procedures.

On Tuesday, 26 November 2019, the Speaker of the Lower House of the Federal Parliament, Mohamed Mursal, acting on a whim and using imaginary powers unknown in law, made a unilateral decision to send the SOB back to the Executive in a poorly conceived scheme to frustrate the deliberation and passage of this Bill by the House of the People. This unprecedented decision is not only against parliamentary standing orders and common decency, but is also an affront to the honourable men and women who sit in parliament, and who for one reason or the other, were never consulted by the Speaker when he made this illegal decision.

The Provisional Constitution of the Federal Republic of Somalia, under Articles 80, 81, 82 and 83, expressly outlines the procedures for processing Bills before the House of the People and the Senate. Nowhere does it give the Speaker any powers to send a draft legislation initiated by the Council of Ministers back to the Executive.

On behalf of the organised labour, FESTU regrets this non-progressive and partisan decision that seems cultivated to stall and water down the advancement of gender equality and protection of human rights of all who live in Somalia. Specifically, FESTU is saddened that this decision is major setback for women workers whose human rights get violated time and time again due to the repeated sexual offences, including continued harassment, they experience both at work and at home.

The decision by the speaker of the Lower House of the Federal Parliament came amid growing sectarian and parochial opposition to women’s advancement in Somalia. Within this climate, some individuals have taken it upon themselves to spread rumours, falsehoods and propaganda about the SOB in a bid to influence the population, including their representatives in parliament, to oppose the SOB.

The SOB makes provision about sexual offences, their definition, prevention and the protection of all persons from harm associated with unlawful sexual acts. SOB particularly defines & criminalises rape, gang rape, sexual assault by penetration, causing a person to engage in a sexual activity against her/his will, sexual slavery, sex tourism, sex trafficking, forced marriage, sexual harassment, administering an intoxicating substance with intent to commit a sexual offence, abduction for sexual purpose, unlawful detention for sexual purpose, child marriage, meeting or grooming a child for sexual purposes.

Trade Unions urge the Federal Government to reject this unconstitutional act and insist SOB remains submitted from the Executive and must go through the normal parliamentary procedure, without being stalled or politicised. FESTU welcomes the ongoing motion by progressive parliamentarians to challenge the unconstitutional decision of the Speaker. 

FESTU stands for a just Somali society in which everyone, and more so the leaders, must respect the laws and the provisional Constitution. We can only build such a just society if we boldly call out unethical and unconstitutional behaviours in our leaders, and hold them accountable to respect the rules that we have created for ourselves as a society!

FESTU wishes to remind the Federal Parliament and the Speaker of their obligation and responsibility to protect the provisional Constitution and abide by it. Any decision that goes against the letter and spirit of the Constitution must be condemned unapologetically and unreservedly.

Speaker Mursal must revoke and reverse this decision forthwith & issue a formal apology to the country.

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