Women and girls abducted by the Islamist group Boko Haram in Nigeria are routinely subjected to forced conversion, marriage, and/or physical and psychological abuse, including rape, a report from Human Rights Watch finds.
Based on interviews with witnesses and victims, including twelve students who were among the two hundred and seventy-six abducted from the Chibok Secondary School in April but later escaped, the report, "Those Terrible Weeks in Their Camp": Boko Haram Violence Against Women and Girls in Northeast Nigeria, (69 pages, PDF), found that women and girls abducted by the extremist group were threatened with whipping, beating, and death unless they converted to Islam, agreed to stop attending school, and wore the veil or hijab. Boko Haram, whose name translates roughly as "Western education is forbidden," has abducted more than five hundred individuals since 2009 — mainly students and Christians, some of whom were released after they pretended to convert and pledged not to return to school — and has escalated its abductions since May 2013, when the government imposed a state of emergency in the states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, where the group is most active.
The report suggests that the Nigerian government has failed to adequately protect women and girls in the region from abuses at the hands of the Islamist group; provide them with effective support, medical care, and mental health services after their captivity; and investigate and prosecute those responsible for the abuses. While Nigeria's federal and state governments, with support from international agencies and foreign governments, set up funds for the fifty-seven Chibok students who escaped, the funds appear not to have benefited other victims. None of the other women and girls interviewed by Human Rights Watch had received or was aware of any government-supported mental health or medical care, and many feared discussing the trauma they endured.
"The Chibok tragedy and #BringBackOurGirls campaign focused much-needed global attention to the horrific vulnerability of girls in northeastern Nigeria," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Now the Nigerian government and its allies need to step up their efforts to put an end to these brutal abductions and provide for the medical, psychological, and social needs of the women and girls who have managed to escape."