A coalition of 228 women rights organisations under the aegis of Womanifesto on Thursday demanded an investigation of the reported forced abortion of at least 10,000 pregnancies among rescued women and girls by the Nigerian military.
Among the 228 Womanifesto members were 100 Women Lobby Group, Action Aid Nigeria, African Women’s Initiative, Bring Back Our Girls, Association Against Women Exploitation and Degradation, Education as a Vaccine, Christian Women for Excellence and Empowerment in Nigerian Society, Christian Women in Nigerian Politics, Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria, Enough is Enough (Nigeria) and Women in Politics Forum.
Others were the International Federation of Women Lawyers, Justice Development and Peace Commission, Justice Development and Peace Mission, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, Nasrul-Lahi-L-Faith Society, National Centre for Women Development, National Council of Women Societies, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Christian Association of Nigeria (Women Wing), Yiaga Africa and HEIR Women Development.
According to a report by Reuters, the rescued women and girls were said to have been abducted and raped by the Boko Haram Islamic group and the pregnancies allegedly aborted by the Nigerian military.
But the convener of Womanifesto and Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Cenyltre, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, in a statement issued in Abuja, called on the Federal Government to institute a panel of inquiry.
She also said the government should take immediate steps to save other young women from being further victims of illegal and illegitimate abortion anywhere in the country.
Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi said, “We received with dismay and shock ‘The Abortion Assault’ report published by Reuters where it was alleged that the Nigerian Military runs a secret mass abortion programme in the war against Boko Haram. We condemn this reproductive health violence allegedly carried out by the Nigerian Military since at least 2013. These alleged illegal, secret abortions were reportedly carried out without the women’s knowledge or consent with many held at gunpoint, drugged or beaten into compliance.
“We are also shocked that several of the victims were reportedly young girls. This is unethical and condemnable. We are concerned that such barbarity could take place in this country. Under the International Law on the theory of command responsibility, the Federal Government is held accountable for the alleged act.
“We, therefore, call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to take responsibility for this dastardly act and institute a panel of inquiry while it takes immediate steps to save other young women from being further victims of illegal and illegitimate abortion anywhere in the country.
“Abortion is a restricted reproductive health right in Nigeria, carried out to save the life of a woman. Many of the rescued women and girls had already experienced multiple forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Rescued survivors of sexual and gender-based violence deserve quality medical and psychological medical care and attention. To be forcefully given abortions after being reportedly rescued by the Nigerian Military is a human right violation.
“Forced abortion is not only reproductive health violence, but also a crime against humanity and this act breaches laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law. Major Gen. Jimmy Akpor, Director of Defence Information at the Defence Headquarters has called the report ‘a blackmail mercenary journalism’ and denies all the allegations of infanticide and crimes against humanity.
“We, nonetheless, state unequivocally that respect for women’s reproductive health and rights implies that women’s bodily integrity must be protected, and her ability to consent to whatever happens or whatever choices she has to make on her body is critical. Withdrawing such fundamental authority from any rescued woman is indeed a violation of her fundamental rights. The report shows that this dignity was trampled upon by the military.
“We are demanding that the Nigerian Military and, indeed, the Federal Government immediately set out to thoroughly investigate these allegations and make the outcome of the investigation public. We demand that the government steps into the matter urgently to investigate this matter and accordingly punish the culprits. The affected women and girls have the right to be protected and failure to do this shows the federal government is an accomplice and is liable.”