By Amina Dorayi, Country Director, Nigeria
As a woman, a mother, a reproductive health and rights advocate, I am deeply saddened and outraged by the Reuters report “Nightmare in Nigeria.” The report details unthinkable crimes against women and children—a mass abortion campaign aimed at women impregnated by Boko Haram fighters and the killing of children presumed offspring of the fighters. The report estimates that since 2013, the Nigerian military forcibly terminated at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls who had been raped by Boko Haram.
Forced abortions are a gross violation of women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the killing of children reflects the worst of humanity. The women and girls forced to have abortions were doubly violated—first raped and forced into marriage by Boko Haram and then coerced to have abortions by Nigeria’s own military.
From my work with Pathfinder International, I know all too well that women and children are the most vulnerable in crises and emergency situations. Instead of protecting women and girls who have endured years of trauma from sexual and gender-based violence under the insurgency, some in power chose to continue to violate women’s and girls’ rights by forcing them to have abortions against their will.
As Pathfinder’s Country Director in Nigeria, I must speak out. Pathfinder is an organization that has worked closely with the government of Nigeria to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights for more than 50 years. These crimes stand in direct opposition to the work we have done to further women’s and girls’ autonomy over their own bodies and protect the health and well-being of women and children.
And as a friend and supporter of the Nigerian government, I urge the government to end the insurgency and to put no less energy into ending, investigating, and prosecuting these heinous crimes committed by the military. The insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast that began more than a decade ago has destroyed communities, displaced millions, and will have lifelong consequences on women and their families. We can’t let the insurgency and its aftermath continue to destroy lives.
I also call on the civil society to raise their voices against these actions. Our collective strength is needed in the darkest of times.