Since 2018, the Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners at the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) have studied and documented the effects of the Boko Haram conflict on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women (SRHR) in Northeast Nigeria. The Center’s new report, entitled “The Conflict in Northeast Nigeria’s Impact on the Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women and Girls,” highlights key findings from its extensive work in the Nigerian states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, and Abuja.
This report calls upon the Nigerian government to take immediate measures to comply with its international and regional human rights obligations. A critical first step is providing access to maternal health care services, abortion, and other reproductive health services for women and girls living in conflict zones.
Through fieldwork, documentation, and more than 150 on-the-ground interviews, representatives from the Center and LEDAP found that women and girls affected by conflict are particularly vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, sexually transmitted infections, sex trafficking, forced marriage, and forced and unintended pregnancy. They are also at greater risk of other SRHR violations, including mistreatment while seeking maternity care in health facilities and maternal deaths.
These violations are particularly common in Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDP Camps), where more than 2 million people have been forced to live since Boko Haram first invaded Nigeria in 2009. A pervasive lack of accountability in the Nigerian government, as well as by national and international actors coordinating the humanitarian response, has led to systemic violations of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Creating mechanisms to monitor, investigate, and punish SRHR violations enables both the Nigerian government and international bodies to hold perpetrators accountable.
In addition to the Nigerian government, the report’s audience includes the United Nations and the African Union, donor countries, humanitarian service providers, and civil society organizations. As the report emphasizes, cross-sector collaboration among these groups is critical to ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of Nigerian women and girls affected by conflict. Which, as Onyema Afulukwe, Senior Counsel for Africa for the global legal program with the Center for Reproductive Rights, explained, is the ultimate goal.
“This report is the culmination of many years of work in Nigeria,” Afulukwe said. “After talking with hundreds of women, we hope that the findings highlight the need for women and girls impacted by conflict-related violence and sexual and reproductive rights violations to access the comprehensive medical and support services they need.”