The separation of public and private personas of majority of Somali men borders on psychotic! Hold your guns and let me explain before you shoot.
On the outside, most men act honorable, some dress in religious costumes and grow beard others are seen as “respectable elders or intellectuals”. These men command respect from not only their families and neighbours but sometimes also from their clan and Somali society in general. They lead what would be considered decent and responsible lives, most (these days you will struggle to find a boy over 15 who is not already married with kids) are married with children and some even have multiple wives. I am describing the average Somali man, also known as Faarah. He has an average of 2 wives and 8 kids. He is skinny and tall with a dashing smile - apart from green teeth monsters who chew khat on a daily basis.
Most Faarahs pay a lot of attention to Haliimo’s dress code, (for the non-Somali readers, Haliimo is your average Somali woman). I would go as far as to say most Faarahs have few full time jobs:
1) Marrying, divorcing and wife-replacing at least once a year.
2) Selflessly repopulating Somalia and making up for the couple of million lives lost to the war (never mind that we have more than replaced that number just few years into the war and now desperately need population control methods)
3) Volunteer moral police for women’s dress code, and this particular full time volunteer job is done with such zeal we often have victims physically violated by someone “outraged” by “inappropriate” dress code!
When in a group, most men act all respectable and decent. They talk a lot about religion, quoting what Allah and the Prophet have said, the role of women in Islam (latter is their favourite section of the Quran). Then something strange happens when the same men get a minute with a woman alone. Suddenly it is like a sexually starved deamon takes over their bodies and they turn totally creepy! I have had so many lines of the most inappropriate sexual jokes from usually older Somali men to fill a book, seriously. But I will give you just one example to illustrate my point.
Late last year in Mogadishu an older male friend, or I thought he was a friend, said something to me in front of 2 other male friends that my heart skipped a beat in disbelieve. We were sitting at a hotel lobby having dinner and joking after a tough day of Shabaab bombing in the city and when he got up to leave for his room, out of the blue said “I hope you never starve and always have both your mouths fed”!!! My Somali isn’t as polished so it took me a while to figure out what he meant and I did it mainly as a result of the shocked look on the faces of my 2 male friends sitting next to me. To my horror and surprise I figured out he meant “may you never run out of food and dick”! How incredible is it that a so called respectable and well known man in Somali politics circles would say such a rude and crude thing while sober and in public? Don’t worry, I won’t scoop as low and add his picture on this entry, even though I am really tempted.
He ran off quickly to his room before I had a chance to confront him so I did it the following day at lunch, when he walked over to my table as if nothing had happened and greeted me with a big friendly smile. I would have thought I dreamt the whole thing up had it not been for the witnesses! He seemed genuinely surprised that I “took the joke so hard”, “it was just an innocent thing otherwise I wouldn’t have said it so openly. I thought of all women, you would be strong and open enough to understand such a joke”…Like wow, why don’t you just rape me for a joke, that is the only thing left!
It is that psychotic and ‘normal’ to abuse women and sexually harass them with such ease, result of accepted culture of violence and impunity.