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21 January, 2018
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Africa’s self-declared republic of Somaliland passed its first law against rape on January 8th.

The bill has been approved in the lower house of parliament, but still needs affirmation by the upper house. Speculations are that the bill will be signed by the president on March 1st.

According to the Guardian, it is the first piece of legislation to address gender-based violence in the state.  Home to 3.5 million people, the tradition goes, like in many other countries, that a victim's family could force her to marry her rapist to avoid being shamed.

Under the republic of Somaliland’s rape and other related offences bill, all forms of sexual offence would be criminalised, including rape, gang rape, sexual assault, trafficking and child marriage. Rapists who infect their victims with HIV would receive life sentences. Rapists now stand to face at least 30 years in prison.

However, the new law does not address domestic violence or female genital mutilation.

A former British colony, Somaliland declared itself independent from Somalia in 1991 but is not internationally recognised as a country. Somalia, on the other hand, does not have a law against rape yet.

Somaliland's speaker of parliament, Bashe Mohamed Farah, told the BBC that rape cases have risen and he hoped the new law would help stop that trend. "Nowadays we have seen even people carrying out gang rapes," he said, adding, that "the main emphasis of the new act is to completely stop rape."

The BBC said that the new law comes within the context of the self-declared republic being keen to be seen internationally as a viable democracy with functioning institutions.

Children and women's rights advocates have been lobbying for the law for years.

According to the World Health Organization, one in three women globally will experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.