On Monday, Human Rights Watch published a report accusing Nigerian officials of sexually abusing displaced women and girls who were living in “safe” camps. Over the past seven years, Boko Haram has displaced over 2.6 million people from their homes and has killed an estimated 26,000, Al Jazeera reported.
According to the HRW report, 43 cases of rape and sexual exploitation have been reported by women and girls living across seven camps for displaced people in northeastern Nigeria, where the center of Boko Haram’s activity is.
President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted several statements regarding the report’s findings, saying the situation was “deeply worrying” to him.
I have seen the new @hrw report, and asked the Inspector-General of Police and concerned State Governors to investigate immediately— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) October 31, 2016
The report indicated that some of the sexual exploitation could be attributed to policemen, soldiers, and camp leaders abusing their authority. If the girls and women desperately needed food, clothing, or medicine, certain men delivering such items would coerce them into having sex. According to the report, “In some cases, men used their positions of authority and gifts of desperately needed food or other items to have sex with women.”
Four women reported that they were drugged and raped, while 37 said that they were coerced into sex over false promises of marriage and financial security.
In one case, a 17-year-old girl was raped and impregnated by a police officer. She reportedly said, “One day he demanded to have sex with me. I refused, but he forced me. I happened just that one time, but soon I realized I was pregnant.” She said that the officer threatened to kill her if she told anybody. She continued, “I was too afraid to report him.”
Garba Shehu, the presidency spokesperson, said, “The welfare of these most vulnerable of Nigerian citizens has been a priority of his government.” Additionally, Shehu indicated that the allegations from HRW “are not being taken lightly.”
It’s incredibly disheartening that women and girls who have already suffered trauma at the hands of Boko Haram militants continue to suffer. The conditions of living in extreme poverty and corruption are only compounded when faced with fear of one’s safety.
Banner photo: cfr.org