Where are our girls – The unspeakable truth
A recent study by the American Psychological Association (APA), published in its October edition of Archives of Sexual Behaviour, focuses on “how rape affects women’s lives”. It revealed that “women who have been raped or experienced attempted sexual assault do not only often “develop anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder”, but this experience can have horrendous effects in other domains their lives, including intimate relationships, how they views their sexual and social reputation, and the quality of their family and social relationships”. This case study focused on fully-grown women whose mental capacities are developed and might be able to handle trauma a lot better than young vulnerable girls.
Being in Borno for a couple of days has practically changed my life. The rollercoaster of topsy-turvy emotions as I listen to heart wrenching stories weakens me. The story of the abducted girls from Government Girls school, Chibok continues to unravel at the seams as rumours begin to grow of these girls being sold as wives-read as sold into sexual slavery-in areas like Chad and its environs. In Nigeria, stories of insurgents claiming lives, destroying property and kidnapping women and girls in parts of north- eastern Nigeria have become annoyingly regular. Some of the victims have lived to talk about their ordeal at the hands of these vagabonds, many have not.
The silent agony, pain and suffering the parents of these young girls of Chibok are going through at the thought of their daughters being subjected to this plight at the hands of strangers, traitors to the peace of the region, these terrorists, is more than can be imagined. Many girls and women have walked this path before and escaped. They have no cause but to remain silent. Mourning their abused pride and womanhood because of the stigma that would accompany them for a lifetime if they decided to take the bold step needed to discuss the sexual depravity of their captors.
One of such victims was Hadiza, a young girl I had to travel to Gwoza to speak with, reluctantly, she shares a story that the community has tried to bury in its past. Dumped, almost lifeless, by the roadside in December 2013, Hadiza shares a sorry tale. When she regained consciousness, she tearfully told people around her how she was forcefully engaged as a sexual slave, made to have sex with at least 12 men who used her in turns. Riddled with sores in her groin, she outlived her usefulness and was abandoned and left for dead.
Rekiya, another lucky girl from Gwoza local government in Nigeria was abducted and taken to a camp behind the Gwoza hills where she was forcefully betrothed to a leader of the terrorist cell called ‘Amir’ (translated loosely to mean King). This they considered to be a high honour for her because she was a young virgin. Rekiya says she played the role of a dutiful wife to please the Amir. Cooked his meals and gave him her body regularly to stay alive. She planned carefully her day of escape from captivity. Escape captivity she did. Claiming to be suffering from acute stomach ache, she got the Amir to ask that she be escorted to the local hospital for treatment by one of the older women in the camp. This she did with a truckload of tears. At a military post, where she thought she would be heard, Rekiya began to scream until her escort had to flee. She made it home with the help of the soldiers.
Many abducted women and girls are not as lucky as Rekiya or Hadiza. Some are killed, or die of torture from the continuous sexual favours they have to pay their captors. Or die from beatings as a punishment for not satisfying the sexual demands of the deviants who hold them captive. Many who make it home, end up with sexual transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies. In the northern part of Nigeria, it is a thing of pride to be considered chaste and “marry-able”. Some of these girls would rather die than face the disapproval of their family and their communities if they head home with swollen bellies.
A police officer in Maiduguri, who would rather remain anonymous, shared his chilling tale of losing his daughter and sister to these terrorists for 4 months in 2013. Set free by the Civilian JTF, these girls came home pregnant. With the joy of making it home dampened, the family had to painfully move on, along with the burden of bringing 2 unwanted children- products of multiple rape- into the world.
In the four years of the reign of terror in Nigeria, more than 200 females have been abducted from the northeastern states and taken to the camps of Boko Haram. They have probably suffered the agonies of being turned into sex tools by these who forcefully defile their bodies or force them into marriages while being held in captivity.
It has been 18 days and Nigerians are still frustrated by many questions: “Where are the remaining Chibok girls?” Are they right now being used as sexual fodder, over and over till their spirits are broken and their dreams crash to the ground on broken wings of a dream of a peaceful country that they hope puts them first? Where are our daughters? Our sisters? Our children? Are they being forced into marriage and denied the pleasure of an education while our leaders cancel meetings over non-related matters? Why are they not top priority? There may be hundreds of more women out there that have been raped in their homes or on the streets as well but these girls matter. Some may have already been inflicted with HIV or AIDS, or left with undesirable pregnancies. Many of them traumatized psychologically in ways that would haunt them for a lifetime.
If the rumours of a negotiation for the release of these girls are true, if the bumbling Federal Government succeeds in its quest to bring the insurgents to the negotiation table, one question plaques me- how do we repair the broken?