This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2024 Conservative government

Eleanor French

Political Officer (Northern Nigeria)

Guest blogger for UK in Nigeria

Part of UK in Nigeria

22nd December 2016 Abuja, Nigeria

Tackling Sexual Violence Stigma Attached to Victims of Boko Haram

On 23 November, the British High Commission and International Alert convened a workshop in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, where 2.2 million people are displaced.

In North East Nigeria, stigma attaches to survivors of sexual violence. Stigma attaches to women who bear a child outside marriage. Stigma attaches to anyone associated with Boko Haram. Many women abducted by Boko Haram in Borno State attract stigma for all three reasons.

In Nigeria, that stigma is rooted in fear, shame that those left behind had been unable to protect their families, and economic as well as societal pressures. For women, stigma manifests primarily in rejection, discrimination, or in the survivor being ostracised by the community. Women spoke about being divorced, being forced to abort a pregnancy, or being refused re-admission to the parents’ home. For men, stigma manifests differently, with different consequences. They are more likely than women and girls to face physical violence.

Those who attended the workshop welcomed the establishment of a community working-level group for exchange and debate.  Participants steered the discussion primarily towards solutions. Religious and traditional leaders also have a role to play. Muslim and Christian participants alike quoted scripture to endorse acceptance of abducted wives, children born of rape and reconciliation within communities.

Experts are needed to deliver psychosocial support and trauma counselling to those returning from the conflict and those receiving them.

During the workshop, the issue of how to reintegrate survivors merged often with the challenge of how to ensure reconciliation within communities. The two are clearly interlinked – without reconciliation the stigma of association with Boko Haram cannot be erased.

Through our CSSF North East Nigeria programme, we are funding International Alert to continue their work with survivors of sexual violence. We are considering how we could  extend this assistance to key areas where capacity building is needed – e.g. psychosocial support and trauma counselling.

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