Metro & Crime

B’Haram: Women, girls face endangered in North-East

I’ve been raped uncountable times – victim

Thousands of women and young girls caught up in the ongoing violence in the North-East region of Nigeria, are said to be facing double jeopardy in the hands of terrorists, security operatives as well as other actors in the conflict zone as they are subjected to rape, sexual exploitation and other forms of human right abuses on daily basis.

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), raised the alarm yesterday at the unveiling of a research report: Impact of Insurgency on the Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls in the North East. The report said that the prolonged and widespread conflict triggered by the Boko Haram insurgents, sacked many communities and displaced millions of families, who are currently taking refuge in the various internally displaced persons (IDP) camps scattered across the Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Available statistics showed that since 2009, more than 2.2 million people have been internally displaced, 20,000 civilians killed, and as many as 7,000 women and girls abducted as a result of the Boko Haram conflict. It has also been revealed that about 1.17 million of the internally displaced persons are women, and 510,555 are of reproductive age. Programme Manager, LEDAP, Pamela Okoroigwe, who presented the report to journalists, said conflict and crisis have dire consequences on the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of women and girls.

Okoroigwe stated that women and girls affected by the conflict were particularly vulnerable to sexual and gender based violence including rape, sexually transmitted infections, sex trafficking, forced marriages and unintended pregnancies. In addition, she said these serious human rights violations and abuses could lead to high rates of unsafe abortion and maternal mortality.

“Access to sexual and reproductive health information and services is therefore critical in these settings. However, disintegrating health systems, unsafe environments, prohibitive costs, lack of information and decision-making power, and fear of further violence for seeking out care all make it difficult for women and girls to access the necessary information and services,” she said.

In 2019, the Centre for Reproductive Rights (the Center) and its partners at the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) initiated a fact finding on the effects of the Boko Haram conflict on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women (SRHR) in Northeast Nigeria. The report presents information collected from over 325 respondents in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. The report indicates high incidences of recurring sexual exploitation in exchange for food and water which occurs with impunity in the IDP camps and host communities. One of the women interviewed summed up her experience with these words: “I have been raped so many times that I can’t even remember.”

The report urges the Federal Government to comply with its international and regional human rights obligation with regards to access to maternal health care services to ensure women and girls trapped in conflict zones receive the needed help and protection from human rights abuses.

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