Somalis debate constitution draft
Somali leaders are debating a new constitution that protects the right to have an abortion to save the life of the mother, and an international law group says the draft guarantees more fundamental rights than the U.S. Constitution.
That’s one reason some women are celebrating the document and hardline conservatives are protesting some of its more liberal promises.
But some of the rights introduced, such as the right to medical care or clean, potable water, will be hard for the government to guarantee in a country where basic needs like food are not always met. While other elements, such as banning the circumcision of girls, a practice the U.N. says more than 95 percent of women have undergone, will take years to banish.
Somali leaders — 825 of them — began a nine-day meeting on Wednesday to examine, debate and vote on the constitution, a document that’s been years in the making. A vote by the group, known as the National Constituent Assembly, is likely to be held late next week and is a key step in a flurry of political activity in Somalia during the next month.
The U.N. mandate for Somalia’s government ends Aug. 20, and Somali leaders are to vote on the constitution, vote in a new 275-member parliament and then vote on a president all before then. If the assembly votes down the constitution, the new parliament will have to debate it and then vote on it.
Somali Prime Minister Abdiwali Mohamed Ali, who for years lived in western New York, called the gathering of Somali leaders a milestone and said the new constitution “is a symbol of justice and equality for our people and country.” He said that the new constitution is only meant to be temporary. The eventual goal is to pass a constitution by countrywide vote, but the security, money and organization needed to hold a nationwide vote is still years away.
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