Ethiopia: Sexual Violence Against Hundreds of Women and Girls by Forces in Tigray Conflict

In the ongoing Tigray conflict, hundreds of women and girls have been subjected to sexual violence by the Ethiopian government forces, Amnesty International reported. The report also revealed how the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), the Eritrean Defense Force (EDF), the Amhara Regional Police Special Force (ASF), and an Amhara militia group abducted, raped, and mutilated women and girls of Tigray.

Sexual slavery and other forms of torture, including offensive slurs and death threats, were also a part of the mentioned violence. It is believed that rape and sexual violence were being used as a weapon of war to cause lasting damage to women and girls in Tigray, both physically and psychologically.

The five-month-old conflict between Ethiopia's federal government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) destroyed the peace of the Tigrayan civilians. It took thousands of lives and left millions of people on the edge of starvation and emergency assistance. The AI report details the severity of the conflict and the scale of the sexual crimes committed against humanity. It calls out the act of Ethiopian forces "degrading and dehumanizing"..

Rape representational image
Image for representational purpose only

Doctors said that hundreds of women were rushed to hospitals for emergency contraception and HIV prevention drugs after being raped. They were often gang-raped by Ethiopian soldiers, while many were seeking abortions and mental support.

Several victims were reportedly suffering in silence, fearing retaliation by forces, according to The Telegraph. Survivors revealed that the soldiers and militia frequently humiliated them, using racial slurs, insults, threats, and degrading remarks.

"The Ethiopian government must take immediate action to stop members of the security forces and allied militia from committing sexual violence, and the African Union should spare no effort to ensure the conflict is tabled at the AU Peace and Security Council." Agnès Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, said.

Despite undergoing pain and suffering, Tigrayan survivors are left with no or minimal medical aid and support. They are not provided with adequate services and assistance they need for their survival, Callamard added.

Scores of civilians have died
Scores of civilians have died in the violence between Ethiopian troops and the local militants Screengrab

The Tigray conflict began in November 2020, and the reports of violence were hidden from the outside world for the initial few months due to the communication and access restrictions imposed by the Ethiopian government. The incident came to light when Amnesty International interviewed 63 survivors of sexual violence and medical professionals, who claimed Ethiopian and Eritrean forces as the sole committers of rape.