Nigeria faces “crisis levels” of rape with most survivors denied justice and rapists escaping prosecution despite a vow by authorities to battle sexual violence, Amnesty International said Wednesday.
The human rights watchdog said hundreds of rape incidents go unreported because of corruption, stigma and victim-blaming in Africa’s most populous country.
“Concrete actions have not been taken to tackle the rape crisis in Nigeria with the seriousness it deserves,” Amnesty said in a report quoting its Nigeria director, Osai Ojigho.
“Women and girls continue to be failed by a system that makes it increasingly difficult for survivors to get justice,” he said in the report titled “A Harrowing Journey; Access to Justice for Women and Girls Survivors of Rape”.
Researchers interviewed 14 rape survivors aged between 12 and 42, as well as the parents of seven survivors who are young children.
Officials from Nigeria’s justice ministry did not answer calls seeking comment, and another official from the ministry of women’s affairs was not immediately available.
Last year Nigeria was rocked by online contestations and street protests after a series of killings and rapes of women.
Police said in June 2020 that the country had seen a sharp rise in cases of rape and domestic abuse of women during coronavirus lockdowns.
Women Affairs Minister Pauline Tallen had also said the number of abuse cases against women and children had tripled as victims were trapped at home.
State governors announced a state of emergency over the issue and said they were committed to ensuring that offenders faced justice.
But Amnesty said Nigeria struggled with cultural stereotypes, failures of law enforcement to investigate, and a lack of support for survivors.
“The fear of not being believed, or even being blamed for being raped, is creating a dangerous culture of silence that prevents survivors from seeking justice,” it said.
According to the UN children’s agency UNICEF, one in four Nigerian women are sexually abused before they turn 18 — and the majority of sexual abuse cases in the country are not prosecuted.