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Centre for Gender Studies

Muna Hersi

BA (Franklin College Switzerland), MA( Institute of Development Studies)


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Muna Hersi
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Thesis title:
‘The Veil of Theory’ in understanding what makes rape financially negotiable in Somaliland.
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PhD Research

My thesis seeks to explore the way in which Somali society reconciles and finds retribution for the crime of rape. It attempts to answer how such an act can be resolved by means of financial settlements between the families of the victim and the accused. Answers to this question will be sought by looking at some of the theoretical foundations within predominant feminist discourse, namely Western liberal feminist thought, which speaks of rape psychoanalytically and individualistically. In particular I aim to draw attention to two fundamental elements in the predominant feminist discourse: experience and the over emphasis on the individual. These constructions I argue can act as a ‘veil’ for researchers in understanding how rape is perceived within other social contexts. What I found in Somaliland was that rape is treated as a crime like any other, with the focus of rape being its socio-cultural and economic implications, and its effects on the ‘collective’ (family and clan) rather than the implications for the individual.

This emphasis is not to say that Somali women do not experience trauma, but rather it is to suggest an alternative point of view from which to look at rape and how it affects women and the society around them. In order to better conceptualise the varied social constructions of rape in Somaliland and the way they are dealt with, we must look at factors such as socio-cultural, economic, and historical factors. As such, what my thesis questions is the applicability of using the predominate feminist discourse of rape to understand localised context.