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BOKO HARAM AND SEXUAL TERRORISM: THE CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE OF THE NIGERIAN ANTI-TERRORISM LAWS

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BOKO HARAM AND SEXUAL TERRORISM: THE CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE OF THE NIGERIAN ANTI-TERRORISM LAWS

 

 

Abstract

Over the centuries rape has been used effectively by terrorist groups as a weapon of terror. In this context, women’s bodies are used by terrorists as battlegrounds, serving the dual purpose of spoils of war and a means of terrorising the populace. The Nigerian fundamentalist group, Boko Haram, has employed sexual terrorism in its campaign of terror against the Nigerian state and its people. Boko Haram has since 2013 embraced this tactic, which has led to the abduction of hundreds of women and girls, the most outrageous being the abduction of 276 ‘Chibok girls’ that has attracted global concern. The Nigerian government has responded to the upsurge of Boko Haram terrorism by enacting the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011, amended by the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act, 2013, aimed at criminalising terrorist activities. Unfortunately, this Act is silent on the use of rape to further the ends of terrorist groups. Relying on media reports and interviews, the article examines what appears to be a conspiracy of silence by Nigerian anti-terror legislation regarding the use of rape as a weapon in the hands of terrorists. By not making any reference to the use of rape as a terror tactic, the Act appears either to have glossed over the possibility of rape being used by terrorists, or chosen to ignore it in line with the culture of silence surrounding rape in Nigeria. The article concludes that the Terrorism Prevention Act urgently needs to be amended in order to criminalise sexual assaults targeted at women and young girls by Boko Haram and other terror groups in Nigeria, so as to adequately address the perception of acts of rape as extensions of terrorist activities.

Key words: anti-terrorism law; Boko Haram; Chibok girls; rape