The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2020/487) issued on 03 June 2020.

Despite commendable progress, the Government continues to face challenges in countering the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency. The high number of security incidents attributed to two main factions of Boko Haram have continued since late 2018 in north-east Nigeria and parts of Cameroon, Chad and the Niger, resulting in many civilian and military casualties and a major humanitarian crisis. More than 9.5 million people across the affected regions require humanitarian assistance and protection, and an estimated 2.7 million have been forced to flee their homes. In this context, women and girls face a heightened risk of conflict-related sexual violence, including abduction, rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage. During the reporting period, the United Nations documented 826 allegations of conflict-related sexual violence, including rape and forced marriage. Sexual violence continues to be underreported owing to fears of stigma, gender-based inequality and social norms that silence the survivors in order to uphold family reputation. Of all the recorded incidents, 88 per cent were attributed to armed groups, including Boko Haram and the Civilian Joint Task Force. Security forces, such as the police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were implicated in the remaining 12 per cent of cases. It was also reported that 281 of the incidents occurred when Boko Haram abducted women and girls from their homes, marketplaces or public transportation. Situations of rape, forced marriage, exposure to sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies were also recorded. Forced and child marriage are used as negative coping mechanisms to alleviate economic desperation and to deter armed groups from abducting unmarried girls. Given the limited economic opportunities and restricted humanitarian access in areas controlled by armed groups, many women and girls have suffered sexual exploitation.

A total of 477 women and girls formerly abducted by, or associated with, armed groups benefited from livelihood support, which facilitated their acceptance by family and community members in the context of reintegration processes. During the reporting period, 217 girls were separated from the Civilian Joint Task Force and supported to reintegrate into their communities. Two girls were also released from administrative custody by the military. Specialized training workshops for judges were conducted in partnership with the National Association of Women Judges of Nigeria and counter-terrorism investigators. Furthermore, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons is receiving capacity-building support to respond to sexual violence in the context of trafficking. The United Nations is implementing an initiative known as the “Heroines of peace” to champion women’s rights and roles in building sustainable peace in north-east Nigeria. In 2019, a court martial instituted by the Nigerian Armed Forces convicted and sentenced one soldier for the rape of a 14-year-old displaced girl, marking the first such conviction to date. The Terrorism Prevention Act (2011) does not explicitly criminalize sexual violence as an act of terrorism, and counter-terrorism investigators and prosecutors have failed to address sexual violence as an integral aspect of Boko Haram ideology and operations, thereby impeding access to justice for survivors.

Recommendation

I urge the Government to ensure accountability for crimes of sexual violence and holistic services for survivors. I encourage the authorities to effectively include sexual violence offences into investigations and prosecutions of Boko Haram militants, and to support the socioeconomic reintegration of women and girls who have been held captive by this group.

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