Ethiopia: Rights Groups Demand Inquiry on Violence Against Women in Tigray

(file photo).

More than 60 rights organisations in Africa have called for an immediate inquiry into allegations of violation against women and girls' rights including sexual violence in the Tigray region, Ethiopia.

The Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) in a statement issued last week, said reports of sexual violence against women and girls in the conflict-hit Tigray region need to be acted upon immediately.

The coalition of more than 60 organisations working on women's rights in 32 countries in Africa demanded that the special rapporteur on the rights of women in Africa urge relevant authorities to ensure women and girls in the region are protected from rape and sexual assault in line with Ethiopia's human rights obligations.

They want Ethiopian government to address and mitigate the harm to victims of sexual violence that have already occurred through a survivor-centred approach.

"The horrendous survivor accounts from the Tigray region of sexual abuse of civilians only serve to confirm there is nothing inevitable about this brutal state of affairs. The Ethiopia government is a signatory to several international and regional human rights treaties including the Maputo protocol. We, therefore, invoke the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) mandate to protect the rights of the women in the country," the statement reads in part.

Sexual violence

The United Nation's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict have described the situation as a systematic use of sexual violence as a weapon of war through its use as both a strategy and tactic of conflict and coercion.

SOAWR was formed with the principal objective of advocating for the ratification, domestication and implementation of the Maputo Protocol, which was adopted 17 years ago.

In March, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN agreed to jointly investigate alleged abuses in Tigray, where the Ethiopian army and Eritrean forces are fighting against the Tigray Defence Forces.

Thousands of people have been displaced, with a majority fleeing to neighbouring Sudan since the conflict in Tigray broke out in November last year.

According to Tigray opposition parties, the conflict has so far claimed the lives of at least 50,000 people.

Last month, UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency and other humanitarian related agencies raised the red flag over the high gender-based violence (GBV) cases in Tigray.

The agencies called on the African Union member states to apply a human rights-based approach to these post Covid-19 recovery efforts.

They urged the African states to consider the gendered effects of the pandemic, in particular its disproportionately harmful effects on rights of women and girls in Africa.

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