UN Human Rights Chief, Zeid Al-Hussein, has appealed to Nigerian authorities to ease abortion restrictions for women and girls who had been sexually enslaved, raped and forced into so-called “marriages” by Boko Haram fighters.
He said this on Thursday in New York while discussing with the Human Rights Council on Boko Haram’s rights violations and abuses, the findings of a 12-member team to Cameroon, southern Niger and the north-eastern regions of Nigeria on Boko Haram.
Al-Hussein said interviews had confirmed that during their captivity lasting for months or even years, women and girls were sexually enslaved, raped and forced into marriages.
The Rights group chief said as a result of this, many survivors of the horrific experiences are now pregnant for their rapists.
Al-Hussein also drew attention to the situation of many formerly captive women and young girls, who are pregnant and their reported wish to terminate these unwanted pregnancies.
“I note that abortion is legal in Nigeria only when the life of the woman is at risk.
“Human rights mechanisms have consistently called for ensuring access to safe abortion services beyond the protection of the woman’s life, including in cases of rape, and to preserve the health of the woman,” he said.
The Rights chief said as a result of the unwanted pregnancies, government should have a rethink over the abortion law.
“Taking this into account, I strongly urge the most compassionate possible interpretation of the current regulations in Nigeria to
include the risk of suicide and risks to mental health for women and young girls, who have suffered such appalling cruelty.
He said it had already become clear that the violations committed by Boko Haram were extensive and far-reaching, demanding a response of commensurate magnitude.
Al-Hussein said the survivors in Nigeria gave distressing witness accounts of gruesome mass killings of men and boys, whom Boko Haram grouped together and gunned down or hacked to death with sadistic cruelty.