In yet another horrible turn for a population already under siege from the world’s deadliest terror group, a new UN report finds women and girls returning from being held captive are facing alienation and rejection from their local communities. This is due to the social and cultural norms on sexual violence, in the area, leading to an impression these victims now have “bad blood.”
More than 2,000 women and girls have been kidnapped by Boko Haram in and around northern Nigeria since 2012 and are subsequently subjected to rape and forced marriages. But many are being freed as Nigerian government forces make gains against the extremist group. As a result, says the new report from International Alert and UNICEF, “many face marginalisation, discrimination and rejection by family and community members” while “[t]he children who have been born of sexual violence are at an even greater risk of rejection, abandonment and violence.” Others are shunned for fear of being radicalized in captivity.
The report says governments and NGOs should establish support services for those returning home, and educate those living in the communities where they are returning on what the women and girls endured.
“These findings show a pressing need to do more to reintegrate those returning from captivity by Boko Haram. Many of these girls already face lasting trauma of sexual violence and being separated from their families, so we must ensure they get all the support they need when they finally return,” said Kimairis Toogood, peace building adviser for International Alert in Nigeria.
“If the needs of these survivors and returning populations are not met, these factors could add another dimension to an already complex conflict situation.”