If it weren’t for the viral hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, the issue of Nigerian girls being kidnapped and assaulted by Boko Haram would’ve largely gone unnoticed.
The terror group has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since 2012. However, now that the Nigerian government and various human rights organizations have managed to rescue at least some of them from captivity, communities are refusing to accept them.
A recent report by UNICEF and humanitarian group International Alert has revealed women and girls kidnapped and raped by the jihadists receive a rather hostile welcome once they return to their communities and families. The unsympathetic homecoming turns into explicit persecution if the victim bore children after being sexually assaulted by their captors.
“As they return, many face marginalization, discrimination and rejection by family and community members due to social and cultural norms related to sexual violence,” the report explained. “There is also growing fear that some of these girls and women were radicalized in captivity. The children who have been born of sexual violence are at an even greater risk of rejection, abandonment and violence.”
Despite the fact that the babies are innocent, the locals consider them infected with “bad blood” from their rapist fathers. The ostracized mothers and children are at an increasing risk of further violence along with being pushed into poverty.
“These findings show a pressing need to do more to reintegrate those returning from captivity by Boko Haram,” Kimairis Toogood, International Alert’s peace-building adviser in Nigeria, said in a statement. “Many of these girls already face lasting trauma of sexual violence and being separated from their families, so we must ensure they get all the support they need when they finally return.”
The report also claimed most of the freed women are now turning toward prostitution to avoid homelessness and to provide for their babies.
Ancient cultural values and ignorance have added to the suffering of these women who have already experienced the worst at the hands of Boko Haram. If the returning population fails to integrate into the society, it will introduce yet another disturbing dimension to an already complicated situation in Nigeria.