Nigerian Officials Accused of Raping Women Living in IDP Camps

Mark Babatunde October 31, 2016
A new Human Right Watch report has charged Nigerian officials at camps for persons displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency of sexually exploiting women and girls. Photo Credit: Naija News

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday has accused Nigerian government officials of raping and sexually exploiting women and girls living at refugee camps for people displaced due to Boko Haram. According to the Premium Times, HRW documented 43 cases of rape and exploitation of women and girls in several internally displaced person (IDP) camps in the town of Maiduguri in late July. The report added that most of the victims were displaced from a number of towns and villages adjoining Maiduguri, including Bama, Baga, Damasak, Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, Kukawa, and Walassa.

Out of the 43 victims, four of them were drugged and raped while another 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises or material and financial assistance. Many of the victims who were coerced into sex say they were abandoned by their abusers as soon as they became pregnant. In addition, the victims who became single mothers say they have also suffered discrimination and stigmatization from other camp residents.

Reacting to the report, Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at HRW said, “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. It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them.”

The report noted that at least eight of the victims told the HRW that they had previously been abducted and forced into marriage by Boko Haram fighters before their escaped to Maiduguri. Many of the women and girls abused by influential camp officials and security forces say they did not report the abuse for fear of possible retaliation and stigma.

The report detailed the ordeal of a 17-year-old girl (name withheld) who said that just over a year after she fled the frequent Boko Haram attacks in Dikwa, a policeman in the camp approached her for “friendship,” only to rape her afterward.

“One day he demanded to have sex with me,” she revealed.

“I refused but he forced me. It happened just that one time, but soon I realized I was pregnant. When I informed him about my condition, he threatened to shoot and kill me if I told anyone else. So I was too afraid to report him.”

Another victim, a young mother of four in a camp in Dalori said she welcomed the advances of a soldier who proposed marriage because she needed help feeding her children. He disappeared five months later when she told him she was pregnant.

The HRW report notes that the “irregular supplies of food, clothing, medicine, and other essentials, along with restricted movement in the IDP camps in Maiduguri, compounds the vulnerability of victims – many of them widowed women and unaccompanied orphaned girls – to rape and sexual exploitation by camp officials, soldiers, police, members of civilian vigilante groups, and other Maiduguri residents.”

The seven year old Boko Haram insurgency has claimed the lives of more than 20,000 people, including the abductions of at least 2,000 people, most of them women and children, and the forced recruitment of hundreds of men as fighters. It has also led to the displacement of about 2.5 million people in Northeast Nigeria, many of them currently living in government controlled IDP camps.

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