On a reporting trip to several refugee camps in Niger Republic where thousands of fleeing Nigerian families from Sokoto and Katsina states are receiving sanctuary, HumAngle spoke with some women suffering the trauma of rape.
The women in the camps report that they have not experienced or heard of any complaints of sexual assault and harassment in the refugee camps. But several of them report that they had been raped a number of times back home by armed men in Nigeria before they fled.
All of them are still under the trauma of the assault. But not many of them want to share their experiences even under the condition of anonymity. Hajia Idris, (not real name) is a widow and mother of two and hails from Sabon-Birni in Sokoto state, Nigeria.
She shared her experience with HumAngle: “we have not seen any case of molestation here. Our daughters are in safe hands. “I was a victim of a series of rapes in my community in Sabon-Birni. The armed men abused me more than five times. It was on the last occasion that they killed my husband. That was the day we fled our community.”
“I prefer to shut my mouth because whenever you reveal your story, the community will treat you with rejection. Nobody will offer consolation. You will bear the stigmatization and unnecessary hardship that comes with it.”
“When we arrived here, I talked to one of the officials secretly. It was the official that took me to hospital for a medical examination. Fortunately, they found that I am not infected with any disease.”
“Our people need proper orientation. A significant number of women and children have been abused by the armed men in Nigeria. Some got impregnated while others were infected with sexually transmitted diseases. But they keep quiet because of stigmatization.”
Gender based sexual violence is endemic in Nigeria. It is a major part of the fallouts of the rampage and attacks of communities in the North West by armed men. A senior official of the UNHCR in Maradi that HumAngle approached for insight on this problem declined to have his name on record.
He nevertheless told the reporter unofficially, that “there is the issue of confidentiality. Revealing such information is against international organization`s mandate. All I can say is that we don’t have any record of rape or sexual gender based violence in any of our villages.”
There is also the issue of religious beliefs dogging the problem. Musa Sani, one of the refugees revealed that “we don’t want to be discussing these issues publicly so that we will not expose our daughters to unnecessary hardship and stigma.”
Nevertheless, he volunteered, “I have not heard any story here on sexual violence or maltreating children, though they are the majority here and they are suffering more than us because of their vulnerability.”