An Evaluation of the Legal Framework for Redressing Sexual Violence in the Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria: Challenges and the Way Forward

Author: Anita Nwotite

ISSN: 1996-2193
Affiliations: BL LLB LLM, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria
Source: Stellenbosch Law Review, Volume 32 Issue 1, 2021, p. 169 – 182


Sexual violence is one of the human rights violations characterising the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. These violations include rape, sexual slavery and the abduction of women and girls by members of the insurgent group. Unfortunately, the emphasis has always been on the provision of humanitarian aid rather than redressing these violations. This article argues that although there are laws in place regulating sexual violence in Nigeria, these laws are inadequate in providing redress for the victims. Besides, the laws are rarely implemented to ensure a system of justice for victims, given the patriarchal and cultural antecedents of Nigeria. It is against this background that the article evaluates the legal framework for redressing sexual violence in the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria with a view to revealing the gap that exists therein. To achieve this aim, the article defines sexual violence and instances of such in the Boko Haram context. It also examines the legal framework for redressing sexual violence in Nigeria and the limitations of these laws in that regard. The article further considers the concept of redress and what it entails. Although the article adopts a legal approach, it is concluded that this approach is inadequate in addressing the issue at stake and that, in addition, a resort to extra-legal or other radical measures is needed. To address this challenge, the article among other things, recommends the eradication of cultural practices and negative values encouraging sexual violence; stipulation of a timeframe within which cases of sexual violence must be redressed; the appointment of an independent monitoring body to ensure the implementation of constitutional provisions in that regard; judicial independence; and advocacy by both civil society organisations and the media as tools to compel the relevant authorities to fulfil their responsibility to protect victims of sexual violence. This, it is submitted, will go a long way to address the vulnerability of Nigerian women and girls faced with sexual violence by insurgent groups.