MOGADISHU — Sexual violations against children continue at an alarming rate in Somalia and there is little or no opportunity to seek justice, the UN children’s fund UNCIEF said on Monday.

In a statement issued in Mogadishu ahead of the fifth anniversary of Somalia’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on Oct. 2, UNICEF said harmful practices against girls including child marriage and female genital mutilation are widely practiced.

“The CRC is the most widely ratified global treaty in the world. The cornerstone of this treaty is to recognize that anyone under the age of 18 is a child and their right to protection from all forms of abuse is clearly articulated,” said Werner Schultink, UNICEF Somalia Representative.

Nearly five years ago, on Oct. 2, 2015, the Horn of Africa nation made a historic step to uphold the rights of children by becoming the 196th country to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

According to UNICEF, while there has been an expansion in services to support victims of abuse, protection violations against children continue to rise.

Findings reported by UNICEF child protection partners shows that from January to June, there has been a 25 percent increase in reported cases of gender-based violence against women and girls in Somalia compared to the same period the year before.

This increase, the UN agency said, has been compounded by the COVID-19 outbreak and demonstrates the need for protection policies to be put in place at the government level.

Schultink said by signing the CRC, Somalia made a commitment to not only treat children with dignity but put in place legislation that protects them from harm.

He said relevant ministries at both national and state levels have worked tirelessly to establish a legal framework to protect people, especially women and children, from all forms of abuse and uphold their rights and we continue to support those attempts.

“It is critical that acts of sexual violence and harmful practices are criminalized, and perpetrators are brought to justice,” Schultink added.

Somali children frequently also continue to be forced into early marriage with 34 percent of girls married before their 18th birthday and 16 percent even before the age of 15. (Xinhua)