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Ethiopia: Sexual violence against women and girls amid conflict

Amnesty International’s new report says military forces are subjecting women and girls to sexual violence – which is considered a war crime by the UN.

Trigger warning: This article contains details of violent acts and sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.

A recent report released by Amnesty International states that Ethiopian Forces, Eritrean Forces, the Amhara Regional Police Special Force, and a militia group called Fano, have subjected hundreds of women and girls to sexual atrocities, causing physical and mental trauma.

In its report, Amnesty International interviewed 63 sexual violence survivors together with medical practitioners. From the 63 correspondents, 28 identified Eritrean forces as the main rape offenders.

The ongoing war in the Tigray region has left women and girls vulnerable to various abuses. The war – which began in November 2020 – has caused severe economic damage and put local citizens in serious danger.

Famine has ripped through the region, causing havoc, and millions remain displaced.

Earlier this year, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lockwood, said that sexual violence cases were being reported by the UN team. He called out troops from every side and said all had been involved in human rights violations against women and girls in Tigray.

The UN is currently investigating and is yet to release its findings. The Amnesty International has detailed a number of different incidents including ethnic slurs, death threats, violence, slavery, and torture.

Effects of war on women and girls in Tigray

According to Amnesty International, a total of 1,288 sexual violence cases were registered by health facilities from February to April 2021.

The organization says that of all the women and girls it interviewed, none had reported sexual abuses to the authorities and some had not visited health care centres for checkups. In the past nine months, amid the war, a number of these centres in the Tigray region shut down.

Some health centres had been occupied by soldiers and were barred from public service, with the UN and other international bodies having to provide in replacement. However, a few of these aid programs were denied access by the government.

Amnesty reports that women survivors suffer both physical and mental trauma. Physical pains such as continuous bleeding, fistula, and back pain were reported.

The report says that a number of women had been held captive for weeks and raped by several soldiers. Some women and girls said they were held in remote rural areas, some houses and even in military camps.

Additionally, women reported starvation and beatings for refusing to cooperate in sexual demands. Both the UN and Amnesty International have termed sexual violence as ‘weapon of war’ in the ongoing Tigray conflict.

A number of displaced survivors in both Ethiopia and Sudan camps reported there was limited attention to health care assistance and psychological help.

Concerned authorities have geared more energy to the Covid status in the respective countries making camp services to derail for a longer period of time.

Women and girls rights concerns amid conflict

It is unclear what solutions the UN will undertake once it releases its report concerning the Ethiopia civil war.

Women and girls remain the most vulnerable group. Calling for justice, protection, and an end to violations affecting women and girls in Tigray would prompt concerned authorities to act swiftly and control the escalating situation.

The whole world has been overshadowed by the pandemic. Little attention has been given to other devastating situations affecting the world.

Through the use of social media, awareness can be raised and pressure applied to governments. Creating and signing petitions is a great way to push for reform and for voices to be heard.

Amnesty International has a number of petitions available to sign. On the organizations website, you can send a petition email to the Prime Minister asking for an end to the war and to protect the human rights of violence victims. Click here to get started.


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