HRW: Boko Haram refugees raped by officials, security
Lagos, Nigeria — Nigerian government officials, soldiers and police are raping and sexually exploiting women and girl refugees from Boko Haram, instead of protecting them, Human Rights Watch said in a report Monday.
Shortages of food, medicine and clothing in refugee camps compounds the vulnerability of victims who include many unaccompanied girls and women orphaned and widowed by the 7-year uprising, the New York-based organization said.
In July, it documented the rapes and sexual exploitation of 37 females, including four who said they were drugged and then abused. Some described having sex in exchange for food for their children, including a woman at a camp that had received no food for about seven weeks.
Camp guards demand sexual favors to allow women out of the gates to beg or buy food, even though U.N. guidelines say there should be freedom of movement in camps, the report said.
It quoted some victims saying their abusers abandoned them when they became pregnant.
“I just feel sorry for the baby because I have no food or love to give him,” it quoted a raped 16-year-old as saying. “I think he might die.”
The report quoted a health worker at a camp housing 10,000 as saying the number of people needing treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections had risen from 200 cases in 2014 to more than 500 in July 2016.
For months, aid workers have been reporting such abuse only to have the Emergency Management Agency, which manages the camps, deny it.
Human Rights Watch said it met Sept. 5 with the minister of women affairs, Sen. Aisha Jumai Alhassan, who promised to investigate and respond. She never did.
But on Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered Nigeria’s police chief and governors of affected states to investigate immediately. A statement promised his government will “do its very best” to protect “these most vulnerable of Nigerian citizens.”