Legal Defence and Assistant Project (LEDAP), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), has urged the Federal Government to increase the tempo in the promotion of women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health.
Its Programme Manager, Mrs Pamela Okoroigwe, made the call during the inauguration of a report on “Conflict in North East Nigeria’s Impact on Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls” on Wednesday in Abuja.
LEDAP, in partnership with the Centre for Reproductive Rights, also called on the Federal Government to comply with its international and regional human rights obligation regarding access to maternal healthcare services.
Okoroigwe explained that the report revealed how women and girls were affected by conflict, noting that they were particularly vulnerable to sexual and gender based violence including rape, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), sex trafficking, forced marriage and unintended pregnancy.
She said it was necessary to ensure that women and girls affected by conflict-related violence accessed comprehensive medical and support services, including psychosocial support.
She added that “government should ensure that there are functioning mechanisms to monitor, investigate and punish sexual violence and other sexual reproductive health violations by state and non-state actors, even in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps and host communities.’’
Okoroigwe emphasised that the report analysed information collected from 325 respondents in Borno, Adamawa , Yobe and Abuja, which indicated high incidences of recurring sexual and gender based violence occurred with impunity in IDPs camps and host communities.
Other incidences indicated by the report, she said, were forced and child marriage and sexual exploitation in exchange for food and water, which also occurred in IDPs camps and host communities.
She stressed that one woman summed up her experience with these haunting words, saying “I have been raped so many times that I can’t even remember.’’
According to her, the report also shows that access to maternal care services, including skilled birth attendants and essential medicines remain a key barrier for the women who eventually made it to IDP camps and host communities.
“Respondents in all the interview locations spoke about their experiences of fleeing invasion by Boko Haram while pregnant. Many had been raped by the group and lost their pregnancies as a result.
“Those who did not, ultimately gave birth without any skilled attendance while camped out on roads, while seeking shelter underneath trees, in abandoned buildings. Many suffered severe injuries and others died.’’
She also said the report revealed that there was a dearth of supporting mechanisms and processes to ensure accountability for sexual and reproductive health violation.
“Several women and girls, including pregnant women were raped more often than not in the presence of their children.
“Many contracted HIV after these experiences and they were yet to obtain any justice for the recurring sexual and reproductive health and right violations in the camps.
“Ensuring accountability and the provision of sexual right health information and services is central not only to an effective humanitarian response but also for fulfilling fundamental human rights obligations,’’ she said.(NAN)