Dikwa is a town in northeastern Nigeria that has been ravaged by conflict and displacement since 2009. The town hosts a large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), mostly women and children, who have fled their homes due to violence and insecurity. Many of these IDPs live in Kilagoro Camp, a makeshift settlement that is not supported by the government or any humanitarian organization.
The IDPs in Kilagoro Camp face multiple challenges, including lack of access to basic services such as healthcare and education. They also face the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, which can have devastating effects on their physical and mental health, as well as their dignity and rights.
Sexual exploitation and abuse refer to the act of taking advantage of someone sexually for personal gain or pleasure, often through coercion, manipulation, or force. It can involve various forms of non-consensual sexual activities or behaviours, such as harassment, assault, human trafficking, or the creation and distribution of explicit material without a person’s consent.
According to reports from the camp, sexual exploitation and abuse are rampant and affect many women and girls. They are targeted by individuals or groups who seek to exploit their vulnerability and desperation. Some of the forms of sexual exploitation and abuse that occur in the camp include: Forced labour; Some women are coerced into working without pay, often in harsh and dangerous conditions. They are threatened with violence or denied food or water if they refuse or fail to comply.
Also, forced marriage is one of the common abuses in the camp. Some women are forced into marriages they did not choose, often with older or abusive men. They are treated as property and have no say in their lives or futures.
Furthermore, Sexual exploitation for survival is not a hidden act. Some women resort to exchanging sexual favours for food, water, shelter or protection. They are approached by men who offer them these necessities in return for sexual services. They have no other option but to accept, as they have no means of providing for themselves or their families.
There is an urgent need to address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in Kilagoro Camp, and to ensure the safety and dignity of the IDPs, especially women and girls. The government and humanitarian organizations should recognize and respond to the needs and rights of the IDPs, and provide them with adequate support and services. They should also establish a safe space in the camp, where the IDPs can access information, counselling, health care, education, and legal aid. They should also raise awareness and prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, and hold the perpetrators accountable. They should also empower the IDPs, especially women and girls, to participate in decision-making and to rebuild their lives and futures.
Rukaiya Umar Digmari wrote from the Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri