…calls for protection of female gender against sexual violence
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Center for Reproductive Rights and Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has said that out of the 2.2 million Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in Nigeria, 1.17 million are women while 510,555 are girls of reproductive age.
LEDAP, a non Governmental Organization, NGO made the disclosure in a report titled “The Conflict in Northeast Nigeria’s Impact on the Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls” which it made available to Sunday Vanguard in Abuja over the weekend, attributing the situation to the lingering insurgency and insecurity in the north east part of the country.
It stated that sexual exploitation, HIV transmissions, inadequate access to sexual and reproductive health services, maternal deaths, and injuries were among the impacts of the conflict on women and girls.
The NGO added that demands for transactional sex to access food and nonfood items, are commonplace, inadequate assistance to the IDPs in host communities and camps had largely exacerbated the violations.
The report also unearthed grave challenges that continued to take an unbearable toll on women and girls in conflict zones, citing inadequate access to sexual reproductive health services including contraceptives, which lead to unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortion as example.
It also bemoaned the absence of psychosocial counseling for related trauma which it stated has resulted in some instances to maternal injuries and deaths.
The Senior Counsel for Africa, Center for Reproductive Rights, Onyema Afulukwe decried the epidemic of exploitation and abuse
“Sadly, women and girls who have experienced reproductive health and rights violations due to the conflict have no meaningful access to justice because of weak accountability mechanisms in conflict zones, even though human rights protections are guaranteed by national, regional and international laws that Nigeria is bound by. Nigeria must now prioritize legal and institutional mechanisms for addressing these violations”, Afulukwe said.
Also, the National Coordinator, LEDAP, Chinonye Obiagwu (SAN) stated that many of the women and girls have suffered severe maternal injuries.
“Many women and girls who have been sexually abused by the insurgents have lost pregnancies. Those who did not, ultimately gave birth without any skilled attendance while camped out on roads, while seeking shelter underneath trees, in abandoned buildings, and in military detention centers. Many suffered severe maternal injuries, and others died.
“The government of Nigeria must take immediate steps to comply with international and regional human rights obligations regarding access to maternal health care, abortion, and related services for survivors of sexual violence”, he said.
The report also stated that lack of basic needs such as food, shelter and education for children in the IDP camps and host communities was also an issue of seismic proportions.
It will be recalled that the African Children’s Charter calls on States to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices affecting the welfare, dignity, normal growth and development of the African children and emphasizes the duty of States to take care of them and protect their rights during armed conflict.