A rights group has accused Nigerian government officials and other authorities of raping and sexually abusing women and girls displaced by Boko Haram militants.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed that in July 2016, it documented the abuse and exploitation of 43 women and girls living in camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) across the northeastern city of Maiduguri in Nigeria’s restive Borno State.
The victims displaced from various cities, had their movement restricted in some cases after having spent months in military screening camps, the group said.
HRW claimed that the Nigerian government was not doing enough to protect the victims and to ensure that they had access to basic rights and services.
“It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at HRW.
While four of the victims interviewed reported that they had been drugged and raped, a further 37 claimed to have been coerced into sex through promises of marriage and financial assistance. Many of the women reported having been abandoned after they fell pregnant, with their children suffering discrimination and abuse at the hands of other residents in the camp.
Read accounts from the victims’ interviewed here.
A situational assessment conducted by Nigerian research organisation NOI Polls further revealed that 66% of 400 displaced people living in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states had reported sexual abuse from officials within the camps.
Irregular supplies of food, medical aid and clothing had led to the exploitation of some of the most vulnerable individuals living in the camps, with men using their positions of authority and privilege to have sex with women who sometimes only receive one meal a day.
The report said that victims of rape and sexual abuse were less likely to seek healthcare, with fewer than five of the 43 women interviewed reporting that they sought formal counselling following their harrowing ordeals. In addition, a medical health worker reported a rise in the number of people requiring HIV treatment, from about 200 cases in 2014 to more than 500 in July 2016.
Aid workers warned since early 2016 that women were being coerced into exchanging sex for basic necessities, with members of the security forces, along with other elements subjecting them to gross gender-based violence.
Following his visit to Maiduguri in August 2016, United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, said that the Nigerian government had “a tendency to downplay the problem of sexual violence and abuse” of internally displaced people.
HRW said it had since approached authorities regarding the finding of its report.
“Failure to respond to these widely reported abuses amounts to severe negligence or worse by Nigerian authorities. Authorities should provide adequate aid in the camps, ensure freedom of movement for all displaced people, safe and confidential health care for survivors, and punish the abusers,” Segun said.