TOM ODULA, Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Decades of conflict and discrimination have left people with disabilities in Somalia vulnerable to forced marriage, violence and rape among other abuses, an international human rights group said Thursday

Amnesty International called on the Somali Federal Government to ensure the rights of people with disabilities are protected in law and in practice.

People with disabilities face greater abuse in Somalia because they are often seen as a burden or as easier targets to attackers, said Gemma Davies, Amnesty International’s Somalia Researcher.

Researchers in February spoke to dozens of people with physical disabilities who spoke of the abuses inflicted on them including rape and beatings, the rights group said in statement. Women and girls with disabilities said they are forced into marriage to older and sometimes abusive men in their families’ bid to rid themselves of the perceived burden of having disabled children, the statement said.

Amnesty researchers spoke to a woman identified only as Hannan, who has been disabled since she was a baby and forcefully married off when she was 13 years old.

“My family decided to give me to this man, I refused and ran away. My family sent strong men after me. They caught me, tied my arms and legs and threw me in a room with the man. He beat me since the beginning,” she said, adding that she was told not to complain. “When I escape and go home, my aunt says that I am disabled and returns me back.”

Somalia is struggling to rebuild itself after decades of conflict and an ongoing insurgency by Islamic militants. The country was plunged into chaos following the 1991 ouster of dictator Siad Barre.

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