Nigeria reports surge in rapes during virus lockdown

Nigeria's Women Affairs minister Pauline Tallen said that the number of abuse cases against women and children had "escalated three times" as victims were trapped at home.
Nigeria's Women Affairs minister Pauline Tallen said that the number of abuse cases against women and children had "escalated three times" as victims were trapped at home.
Image: lassedesignen/123rf

Nigeria's police chief on Monday said the country had seen a sharp increase in cases of rape and domestic abuse of women during coronavirus lockdowns.

"It has come to the public knowledge now that because of the COVID-19 restrictions, we have a surge in cases of rape and gender-based violence," Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu told reporters in the capital Abuja.

"From January-May 2020, we have recorded about 717 rape incidents that were reported across the country", he said, adding that 799 suspects have been arrested.

Last week Women Affairs minister Pauline Tallen said that the number of abuse cases against women and children had "escalated three times" as victims were trapped at home.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with 200 million people, has been rocked by a string of high-profile killings and rapes of women in recent weeks.

The attacks have sparked an outcry online and street protests that forced officials to pledge renewed efforts to tackle widespread sexual violence in the country.

Governors from across the country announced a "state of emergency" over the issue and said they were "committed to ensuring that offenders face the maximum weight of the law".

According to the United Nations children agency UNICEF, one in four Nigerian women are sexually abused before they turn 18 -- and the majority of cases of sexual abuse in country are not prosecuted.

Last year the country launched its first national register of sexual offenders, a move seen as an important step towards clamping down on abuse.

Nigerian authorities imposed lockdowns across the country to try to halt the spread of the coronavirus -- but most of these have now been eased.

Health officials have recorded 16,085 infections and 420 deaths from the virus in Nigeria since the first case in late February.

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