Human Lives Human Rights: Rights experts have expressed grave concern about the widespread sexual and gender-based violence attributed to Ethiopian, Eritrean, Tigray and Amhara forces, as well as allied militia.
Responding to the violence against women and girls caught in the Tigray conflict in northern Ethiopia, experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council said that these incidents constitute some of the most egregious violations of human rights and humanitarian law.
The worst part is that they appear to have been used as part of a deliberate strategy to terrorize, degrade and humiliate the victims and the ethnic minority group that they belong to with acquiescence of the State and non-State actors’ parties to the conflict.
Such brutal acts have devastating physical and psychological impacts on the victims, which are exacerbated by the lack of access to assistance, support and redress for survivors.
The human rights advocates however, continue to voice alarm over the war in Tigray, which began just over a year ago.
What UN experts noticed?
The rights experts said although the exact prevalence of gender-based violence is unknown, estimates are shocking.
They reported that from November 2020 through June of this year, there were some 2,204 survivors of sexual violence across the Tigray region.
Majority of victims, or 90 per cent, were underage girls, and estimated that visits have quadrupled since the conflict began.
However, the experts said these figures are an underestimation of the true extent of gender-based violence being committed. Cases are severely under-reported due to fear, stigma and inability to access health or support centres.
“Despite the humanitarian situation, proper access to facilities is vital to ensure adequate care, for instance for women and girls at risk of developing life-threatening infections,” they stressed.
The experts said that the internally displaced women and girls in Ethiopia, and Eritrean refugee women and girls living in the Tigray region, have been particularly exposed to sexual violence.
Eritrean women and girls, specifically, have been seriously affected by the conflict and doubly victimized,” they added.
In addition to the grave consequences of sexual violence, most victims have also been harmed in other ways by the conflict including by having close relatives killed.
Immediate measures need to be taken to protect women and girls from rape and other forms of gender-based violence, providing redress to victims, facilitating immediate access to health care, and ensuring independent and impartial investigation of all incidences of sexual violence.
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