Thursday, 2 June 2016

Boko Haram: Ban urges President Buhari to support social reintegration of women, girls who escaped captivity

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Thursday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to assist and support the social reintegration of women and girls who have survived Boko Haram captivity.

Ban made the call while addressing the UN Security Council open debate on sexual violence in conflict, in connection with the agenda item: Women, Peace and Security in New York.

He also called on the Federal, State and Local Governments to provide all necessary health care and other comprehensive services, including the safe termination of pregnancies to the women and girls, where necessary.

``I reiterate my call for the immediate release of civilians abducted by Boko Haram.

``I call for effective measures to prevent sexual violence in settings where women and girls seek refuge and to ensure that their safety and rights are considered in all counter insurgency efforts.

``I call for national leadership and responsibility. The UN stands ready to support national authorities in their efforts,'' he said.

The UN chief underscored the need to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in order to address the root causes of conflict-related sexual violence and counter violent extremism.

Ban said the ideological opposition of ISIL affiliates to the autonomy and education of women and girls has placed adolescent girls, primarily, at heightened risk of abduction for the purposes of sexual slavery and forced marriage.

This, he said has been particularly pronounced in North-east Nigeria, where Boko Haram continues its campaign of abduction, forced marriage and forced pregnancy.

Attacks by violent extremist and terrorist groups, he said, disproportionately affect women and girls, who are often targeted as the repositories of cultural identity.

``One year after Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, only 57 have returned.
``An estimated 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2014, with many forced into sexual slavery.

``Such acts of sexual slavery, forced marriage and forced pregnancy could amount to war crimes and/or crimes against humanity,’’ he said.

Ban said at the Internally Displaced Persons Camp in Dalori, Borno, established in April 2015, no fewer than 100 women have given birth following their escape from captivity.

``Several wished to terminate their pregnancies, although abortion remains illegal in Nigeria except when the life or health of the woman is at stake.

``Owing to stigma and religious norms, most victims of sexual violence are reluctant to speak out and unwilling to return to their communities for fear they will be rejected as a source of dishonour,” he said.

As of June 2015, he said that 307 women and children were enrolled in a government-run counselling, education and healthcare programmes.

However, he said that human rights concerns have been raised when women and children released from Boko Haram are held for prolonged periods by the security forces for screening and rehabilitation.

Ban said that in camps and host communities, women and girls continue to face rape, forced marriage and ``survival sex” to meet their families’ needs.

He said UNHCR identified 676 households affected by sexual assault, with the highest proportion reported in Taraba, Adamawa and Borno States.
Overcrowded camps, he said, which afford limited privacy or socioeconomic opportunity, exacerbate this risk.
Progress, he said, was noted in late 2015 in the management of IDPs camps, although psychosocial support and reproductive healthcare remain limited.

Ban said that developments during the reporting period have deepened concerns about the use of sexual violence by terrorist and violent extremist groups, including as part of the systems of punishment and reward through which they consolidate their power.

He said that women and girls face a heightened risk of sexual assault when performing livelihood activities such as collecting firewood, grass or water, going to markets or tending fields, as in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and northern Nigeria.

Ban also women and girls face a heightened risk of sexual assault in South Sudan and the Sudan (Darfur), or when herding cattle, as in remote areas of Myanmar.

In the CAR, he said, rape has been used to punish Christian women for trading with members of the Muslim community and to ``dishonour” them so that they dare not set foot in Muslim enclaves.

Given that there is already a pronounced gender gap in terms of women’s access to land and other productive assets, he said, this reduces their resilience to security shocks, including in terms of financial and food security.

Ban said that the ever-present threat of sexual assault compels women to lead highly circumscribed lives in militarised zones, as seen in eastern Afghanistan or northern Sri Lanka.

Moreover, he said that high-profile women across a range of professions have been subjected to sexual harassment and humiliation aimed at silencing them.

In this way, he said, sexual violence serves as a tool of social and moral control to relegate women to the private sphere and to punish perceived ``countercultural” behaviour.

``Professional women in Libya have been exposed to inflammatory rhetoric, and Afghan women serving in, or training to join, the security sector have suffered sexual harassment.
``In Burundi, women associated with the political opposition have been depicted in media cartoons as prostitutes.
``This carries echoes of the media incitement to violence against women during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, as well as of the incitement to ethnically motivated rape by Radio Bentiu FM during the resurgence of conflict in South Sudan in April 2014,’’ he said.

In 2015, he said that reports emerged of ISIL using radio broadcasts to threaten and terrorise women.
Historically, he said misogynistic media propaganda and crackdowns on women’s rights and freedoms have presaged the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war, terrorism and political repression.

This, he said, underscores the strategic value of gender analysis in all atrocity-prevention efforts.
Following the advocacy of his Special Representative, Ban said that there have been a number of efforts during the reporting period to mainstream such considerations into policy processes.

In October, he said, the Security Council expressed deep concern, in its Resolution 2242 (2015), that acts of sexual violence were part of the strategic objectives and ideology of certain terrorist groups, which were used to increase their power, revenue and recruitment base and to shred the social fabric of targeted communities.

Ban said that his Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism includes a focus on gender equality and the need to empower women as a force for sustainable peace.

He also said that by its Resolution 2253 (2015), the Council expanded the sanctions framework for the suppression of terrorist financing to formally include ISIL and condemned the abduction of women and children for sexual exploitation, trafficking and trading and to force the payment of ransoms.

The UN chief said that in January alone, ISIL extorted 850,000 dollars for the release of 200 abducted Yezidis.

``In 2014, ransom payments to ISIL from the Yezidi community amounted to between 35 million dollars and 45 million dollars.

``Such evidence notwithstanding, the global discourse on and response to the issue of curbing financial flows to violent extremists are focused almost exclusively on such considerations as the sale of oil and antiquities,'' he said.