Numerous allegations of sexual abuse in the Tigray conflict

Three women walking on an African sand road Three women walking on an African sand road Photo by Ninno JackJr on Unsplash

22 January 2021

The United Nations (UN) have received alarming reports on sexual violence against women victims of clashes in Tigray.

In the testimonies collected by the United Nations cases of individuals forced to rape family members, or of women forced to have sex with the military in order to obtain essential goods in exchange, are reported. Further evidence of abuse comes from medical centers, which have reported a sharp increase in demand for emergency contraceptives and testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The perpetrators of this violence are still unknown, although numerous witnesses have confirmed the involvement of members of Abiy Ahmed's army and that of its allies.

The theaters of this violence are the region of Tigray, located in western Ethiopia, and the refugee camps in Eastern Sudan and in the Shire area, in the western part of Tigray on the Eritrean border. However, many alleged rapes are traced to the region's capital, the city of Mekelle. According to UN estimates, more than 25% of the people hosted in these camps are women of reproductive age, who are also the most affected by this type of violence. The conditions of insecurity experienced within refugee camps are fueled by restrictions on access to humanitarian aid and the scarcity of resources needed to ensure adequate protection services. In this regard, the availability of assistance for women survivors of violence has been considerably reduced, as has the access to post-rape kits, and psychosocial support.

The UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Pattern, called on all parties engaged in the conflict to comply with International Humanitarian Law, thus committing to identify perpetrators and provide reparations to victims. The Special Representative has also declared the willingness of the United Nations to support national authorities in implementing measures to prevent and protect the population from new possible violations.


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Author: Francesca Mencuccini; Editor: Carla Leonetti

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