Displaced Women and Girls Abused by Officials

Women and children wait in line for food and water Women and children wait in line for food and water 2016 Getty Images

31 October 2016
Women and young girls, displaced due to escalating hostilities with Boko Haram, have been abused and sexually assaulted by Nigerian officials.

Over 40 women and girls residing in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Maiduguri were interviewed by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) to learn more about the victims of sexual exploitation and harassment. Many of the victims stated that they succumbed to the officials’ sexual favors, because they were bribed with food, financial assistance, and a possible marriage proposal. However, most of the time these women were left abandoned carrying their aggressors’ children and must endure the pregnancy alone.

Moreover, authorities in the camp had full control over the distribution of material goods. Because basic resources were scarce and conditions of the camp unsanitary, women felt pressured into having “survival sex” in order to gain access to food and  gain the ability to move freely in and out of the camps. Not only were women coerced into sex for survival, but many victims suffered immensely from being drugged, raped, and left behind. Most of the time, such acts of violence go unreported due to malicious threats from the aggressors. As a result, women and young girls endure silently as their attackers are able to walk away freely.

One woman shared that she was forced to leave her brother’s home in order to look for shelter and food for herself and her children. Upon arrival at the camp she met one of the elders who offered her food and a future together. Unfortunately, as soon as news of her pregnancy circulated, he ran off and she was further shunned from the whole community. Many other women share similar stories and must deal with the irreparable consequences. As soon as these reports and stories were shared with the public, Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, was quick to respond and announce that there would be an investigation and actions taken to stop the abuses.  


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