For hundreds of women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, their ordeal did not end when they escaped, or when Nigerian soldiers rescued them and reunited them with their families. Instead of being admired for their bravery, many have become outcasts in their communities, stigmatised due to their perceived association with Boko Haram, reports humanitarian news agency IRIN.
Moreover, others – pregnant after rape by their captors – have been “shamed and are now accused of spawning or seeking to spawn future Boko Haram fighters”, continues IRIN.
This bodes ill for the Chibok girls. One recent Christian returnee, Tabitha, said she had met some of them in her camp; many have become Boko Haram fighters, she told The Nation.
This all backs up Angelina Jolie’s message of “rape as a ‘policy’ aimed at terrorising and destroying communities”: Jolie repeated this last week to the UK Parliament.
“[Islamist groups such as] Islamic State are dictating [it] as policy … beyond what we have seen before,” said Jolie, a UN Special Envoy. The Hollywood actress said the groups know “it is a very effective weapon and they are using it as a centrepoint of their terror and their way of destroying communities and families, and attacking and dehumanising”.
Jolie shared stories of girls she had met in war zones who had been repeatedly raped and sold for as little as $40. Last year she co-hosted a global summit in London attended by representatives from more than 100 countries, aimed at raising awareness and tackling the issue of sexual violence in conflict, especially rape as a weapon of war.
The report, Our Bodies, Their Battleground: Boko Haram and Gender-Based Violence against Christian women and children in North-Eastern Nigeria since 1999, sheds light on Boko Haram’s ultra-Salafist ideology which underlies the use of rape as a weapon.
It reveals how tremendously effective and efficient it is to focus attacks on women and girls – because the knock-on effects are devastating to their community. Entire families and Christian communities are thus ‘dishonored’, regularly leading husbands to reject wives who are victims of rape, with all the consequences for their children.
The fact that Christian women and children suffer at the hands of Boko Haram is a carefully calculated part of the movement’s multi-pronged front-line offensive, designed to intimidate the population into accepting political-religious change, points out the report.
The use of rape was also justified by Boko Haram militants on the basis of ‘sex as jizya’, a reference to a tax that early Islamic rulers demanded from their non-Muslim subjects for their own protection.