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Nigeria authorities sexually abuse Boko Haram victims: Human Rights Watch

The rights group said it had documented 43 cases of women and girls who were abused. In photo: Video grab on August 14, 2016 taken from a video released purportedly by Boko Haram at an undisclosed location. Photograph: (AFP)

Lagos, Nigeria Oct 31, 2016, 07.14 PM (IST)

Nigerian officials are sexually exploiting women and girls living in camps for Boko Haram victims, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

The rights group said it had documented 43 cases of women and girls who were abused by camp leaders, policemen, and soldiers. The victims of sexual harassment were spread across seven 'internally displaced persons' (IDP) camps in Maiduguri city. The city is at the heart of a seven-year insurgency by Islamist Boko Haram group.

"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 at HRW, reported news agency AFP. "It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them," she added.

Human Rights Watch found that four of the victims were drugged and raped. Thirty-seven were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance, AFP reported.

"Many of those coerced into sex said they were abandoned if they became pregnant. They and their children have suffered discrimination, abuse, and stigmatisation from other camp residents," the global rights body said. 

A 17-year-old girl told the Human Rights Watch that she was raped and got pregnant by a policeman.

"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 realised 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."

HRW said that men took advantage of an irregular supply of food and other necessary items like clothing, medicine to "have sex with women".

"In some cases, men used their positions of authority and gifts of desperately needed food or other items to have sex with women," the report said, AFP reported.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari directed police to "immediately commence investigations into the issue." 

Boko Haram has killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million people in an attempt to set up an Islamic State in the northeast.

(With inputs from AFP)

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