The United Nations rights chief on Wednesday urged Nigeria to show compassion and make access to abortions easier for women and girls who became pregnant in Boko Haram captivity.
Amnesty International estimates that Boko Haram fighters have kidnapped more than 2,000 women and girls in northeastern Nigeria since the beginning of 2014, including the 276 girls seized from their school in Chibok last year in a kidnapping that sparked global outrage.
“During their captivity, lasting in many cases for months or even years, women and girls have been sexually enslaved, raped and forced into so-called marriages,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told the U.N. Human Rights Council in a special session on Boko Haram.
“Many survivors of these horrific experiences are now pregnant by their rapists … and several reportedly wish to terminate these unwanted pregnancies,” he said.
But in Nigeria, abortion is legal only when the life of the woman is at risk, Hussein said, warning that a lack of access would only add to the suffering of the former captives.
“I strongly urge the most compassionate possible interpretation of the current regulations in Nigeria to include the risk of suicide and risks to mental health for women and young girls who have suffered such appalling cruelty,” he said.