November 3, 2016 3:42 pm
Updated: November 17, 2016 10:58 pm

Boko Haram survivors raped by police, soldiers in ‘safe’ camps

Women and children rescued by Nigerian soldiers from Boko Haram arrive in a military office in Maiduguri, Nigeria in this July 30, 2015 file photo.

AP Photo/Jossy Ola

Girls and women displaced by the violent Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria are suffering rampant sexual abuse at the hands of government authorities, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

The report states that the conflict, which began in 2009, has resulted in the displacement of 2.5 million civilians in the northeast region of Africa’s most populous country. Many of those end up living in one of the country’s many internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. 

READ MORE: 75 per cent of Boko Haram’s child bombers are girls: UNICEF report

But Human Rights Watch officials say that occupants of these camps face constant sexual victimization at the hands of soldiers, policemen and even camp leaders themselves. 

A 17-year-old girl who fled the former Boko Haram stronghold of Dikwa said that she was raped and impregnated by a policeman in an IDP camp.

WATCH: Nigerian military rescues nearly 300 women, children from Boko Haram

“One day he demanded to have sex with me,” she said. “I refused but he forced me. It happened just that one time, but soon I realized I was pregnant. When I informed him about my condition, he threatened to shoot and kill me if I told anyone else. So I was too afraid to report him.”

This is a common refrain among sexual harassment victims, who Human Rights Watch say fear further violence and retribution if they report the abuse.  

READ MORE: Nigerian girls, women stoned to death by Boko Haram as rescuers neared

A July survey carried out by Nigerian research organization NOI Polls found that seven per cent of IDP camp occupants said they knew someone who had been sexually abused, with camp officials held responsible for two-thirds of the incidents.

“It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher for Human Rights Watch. 

“It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them.”

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