Nigeria: Kidnapped Women and Girls Suffer Physical and Sexual Violence, Abductions Continue
Friday, October 31, 2014 3:20 PM

Hundreds of women and girls kidnapped by the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram have suffered prolonged physical, sexual and psychological violence, according to a new report released by the Human Rights Watch (HRW). For several years, Boko Haram has waged a brutal campaign in northeastern Nigeria. The campaign has included several abductions of women and girls. In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from the remote Nigerian village of Chibok. This was the largest single abduction of girls by the militant group. The attack drew international attention and outrage. “Boko Haram” is roughly translated into English as “Western education is forbidden.” One of the group’s stated aims is to deny girls an education.

HRW reports that women and girls abducted by Boko Haram “are forced to marry, convert, and endure physical and psychological abuse, forced labor, and rape in captivity.” They are threatened with beatings and death if they do not submit, convert to Islam and refuse to attend school. According to HRW, victims who escaped from Boko Haram are suffering severe trauma and shame, yet have received little in the way of state sponsored support, medical care or psychological counseling.

On October 17, the Nigerian government announced a cease-fire with Boko Haram and said that it had secured the release of the Chibok schoolgirls. However kidnappings and violence continue, with as many as 70 more girls and boys abducted by Boko Haram in the past two weeks. 

HRW interviewed dozens of victims, government officials, reporters, social service employees, and others, to compile its report on Boko Haram’s violence against Nigerian women and girls. The human rights organization said the Nigerian government should act immediately to protect its citizens in northeastern Nigeria, particularly women and girls, and ensure they can safely attend school. HRW also called on the government to promptly investigate and prosecute criminal abuses by both Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces.

Compiled from: Nigeria: Victims of Abductions Tell Their Stories, Horrific Abuses by Boko Haram, Lack of Government Protection, Human Rights Watch (October 27, 2014); Umar, Haruna and Faul, Michelle, Nigeria - Dozens More Girls Abducted by Nigerian Extremists, Associated Press and ABC News  (October 27th, 2014); “’Those Terrible Weeks in their Camp,’” Boko Haram Violence against Women and Girls in Northeast Nigeria, Human Rights Watch (October 27, 2014).