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Custodial Rape


The Global Persecution of Women


"Custodial Rape," Wikipedia.

Custodial rape is a form of rape which takes place while the victim is "in custody" and constrained from leaving, and the rapist or rapists are an agent of the power that is keeping the victim in custody. When it happens in prison, it is known as prison rape. While some definitions of custodial rape define it as taking place in a state-owned institution, and perpetrated by a state agent,[1] the term more generally refers to any situation where the power of a state agent is used to enable rape; thus, when prisoner-on-prisoner rape happens as a result of neglect by the prison authorities, it may be considered custodial rape.

Custodial rape is an endemic problem in certain nations; some police forces who have been charged with numerous instances of custodial rape have responded by instituting mandatory "virginity tests" for all female prisoners to "prove" that sexual assault has not happened during custody, despite the objection of gynecologists that virginity is not medically verifiable, and protests from human rights organizations that such tests are so invasive as to constitute sexual assault in themselves.

Nigeria. Rape - the Silent Weapon,” Amnesty International, 28 Nov. 2006.

Rape is a form of gender-based violence against women. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women stated in its General Recommendation No. 19 that gender-based violence is a form of discrimination which the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) requires its states parties to eliminate in all its forms. …

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW) states that the term "violence against women" means ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.’ DEVAW specifies that rape, marital rape and sexual abuse are forms of violence against women. Article 2(c) makes clear that ‘Physical, sexual and psychological acts of violence perpetrated or condoned by the State wherever it occurs’ also fall within the definition of violence against women. In order to take all measures to eliminate violence against women States must ‘refrain from engaging in violence against women’( Article 4(b)) and exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons’. (Article 4c)

Radhika Coomaraswamy, “Some reflections on violence against women,” Daily News (Colombo), 16 August 2001.

Violence by the state also raises particular issues. In repressive states, the problem of women in custody and detention is significant. In this context, the thrust to make the state answerable for violence against women is part of the general struggle for human rights and democratization. In pursuing these issues, it is important to work with NGOs and other groups who are interested in the general problems of democracy and human rights. The women's issue cannot be seen in isolation.


David Long, “The Persecution of Yuzhi Wang,” Pacific Rim, 2006.

In November 2001, [Falun-Gong practitioner Yuzhi] Wang was sent to the Wanjia Labour Camp, a prison known for its brutal treatment of Falun Gong members. She recalls daily beatings at the hands of the prison guards and other prisoners during her time there. … The guards even threw the female prisoners, naked, into the male prisoners’ cells. There, they were systematically beaten, raped, and taunted that if they died, it would be recorded as a suicide.

British Home Office, “China,” Country of Origin Information Report, April 2005.

6.123 According to the Falun Gong website’s Clear Harmony: Falun Gong in Europe and FalunInfo.Net, both accessed on 24 January 2005, practitioners are subjected to prolonged beatings, scalding with hot irons and long-term sleep depravation. Other forms of abuse can include being force-fed human faeces or being made to drink isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol used to disinfect wounds). In addition to this practitioners have been made to stand or squat in uncomfortable “stress positions”, have had irritants applied to their skin and have been sexually abused by guards or other prisoners acting on their instructions.

"China," DOS Report 2005.

Sexual and physical abuse and extortion were reported in some detention centers. Falun Gong activists reported that police raped female practitioners, including an incident in November at the Dongchengfang police station in Tunzhou City, Hebei Province, in which two women were raped while in detention.

Calum Macleod, "China's use of torture exposed by Amnesty," London Independent, 13 Feb. 2001.

The litany of abuse extends from prisoners whose confessions were extracted only after their fingernails, to victims of sexual assault with electric shock batons and political activists incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals.

Such brutality is familiar to followers of the banned Falun Gong sect. Adherents interviewed by The Independent have spoken of widespread torture, which is likely to be extended as Beijing steps up its 18-month crackdown after the attempted self-immolation by five members in Tiananmen Square last month.


"India," DOS Report 2005.

The rape of persons in custody was part of a broader pattern of custodial abuse. NGOs asserted that rape by police, including custodial rape, was more common than NHRC figures indicated. A higher incidence of abuse appeared credible, given other evidence of abusive behavior by police, and the likelihood that many rapes went unreported due to the victims' shame and fear of retribution. However, legal limits placed on the arrest, search, and police custody of women appeared to reduce the frequency of rape in custody. There were no recent NHRC data on the extent of custodial rape.

In February a soldier with the Tripura State Rifles raped a minor girl in West Tripura district. Public outrage led to his arrest.

According to 2002 records from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the latest available, courts tried 132 policemen for custodial rape, but only 4 were convicted. The Ministry of Defense reported that it filed 17 rape cases and 10 murder cases against army personnel from 2003-2004. To date, one rape case and five murder cases ended in guilty verdicts. In the remaining cases, the investigations remained ongoing or the charges were proved false.

In January a report prepared by retired judge Chanambam Updendra Singh found 2 members of the 12th grenadiers army unit guilty of raping 15-year-old Nandeibam Sanjita Devi in Manipur in 2003. Devi committed suicide after recounting her ordeal to her mother.

In February an Assam Rifles constable allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam, sparking widespread protests from various women's organizations. Medical examination confirmed the rape, and a case was filed against the constable. Police arrested the soldier and the two women who assisted in the rape, and all three were in custody at year's end.

In September authorities charged two members of the Bihar police with the custodial rape of a 35-year-old widow who was detained on a murder charge. The court ordered an inquiry in the case, which remained ongoing at year's end.

There was a pattern of rape by paramilitary personnel in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast as a means of instilling fear among non-combatants in insurgency-affected areas (see section 1.g.), but these incidents were not included in NHRC statistics, as the NHRC does not have direct investigative authority over the military.

A Major Rehman was dismissed in January from military service after being convicted by a court martial for his involvement in the November 2004 rape of a mother and daughter during a search operation near Handwara in Kashmir. Also in January, the army dismissed a rifleman from service after a court martial convicted him of molestation of an elderly woman in Pahalgam.

“Indian women fight back against rape epidemic,” Reuters, 19 June 2005.

NEW DELHI - For years, rape victims in India were too afraid to speak out, traumatised by the assault and fearful they would be blamed themselves. Many don’t trust the police. …

Molestation, especially on crowded public transport, is rampant, particularly in northern India. Activists say there are two rapes every hour across the country.

Instead of providing protection, the police are sometimes the perpetrators. Last month, a constable in Bombay was arrested for raping a teenager on Marine Drive, the famous sea-hugging road in India’s financial capital.

Imram Khan, “Bihar's custodial rape victim's child dies,” Indo-Asian News Service, 15 April 2004.

Patna, Apr 15 (IANS) A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into an alleged custodial rape in Bihar, which had shocked the state last year, received a setback after the victim's child died from prolonged illness.

The child, who was disowned by all, was born to a woman prisoner Najma Khatoon in the Sasaram jail, where the alleged rape took place. The child died Wednesday, a police official said.

Early this year Bihar government had ordered a CBI probe into the alleged rape of Khatoon on the recommendation of the Bihar police.

The sensational rape of 26 year-old Khatoon, a woman prisoner lodged in Sasaram jail on murder charges, came to light last year when a routine medical check-up showed her to be pregnant.

Her husband, lodged in the male ward of the same jail, disowned the child born in the prison, saying he had not cohabited with Khatoon for the past year.

Khatoon accused a jail official of raping her when she was admitted to a government hospital for a month.

After a public outcry, the Bihar government had last year recommended a probe by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) into the alleged custodial rape.

The chief judicial magistrate of Sasaram had ordered a DNA paternity test for 12 people, including five policemen and four prisoners in the jail.

Amnesty International, "India: Break the Cycle of Impunity and Torture in Punjab," Amnesty International, January 2003.

Women are particularly vulnerable to police abuse. Rape and other forms of sexual harassment are reported to be frequent forms of torture in police custody. Their humiliation is often greater as they are often tortured solely as a means of putting pressure on their husbands and families.

One case illustrates the obstacles a woman can meet while pursuing justice when the alleged offender is a police officer. Renu Bala, a resident of Bathinda, was arrested with her husband in the night of 10 June 1996 while searching for their son who had not returned after work. A group of police officers, headed by an Assistant Sub-Inspector from the Cantonment police station in Bhatinda, reportedly stopped and questioned them in the street and took them to a nearby hotel. The Assistant Sub-Inspector allegedly bit Renu Balas face and tore off her clothes while attempting to rape her in one of the hotel rooms. Other officers forced her husband to drink alcohol and restrained him. The couple was later allowed to escape, after the rape attempt failed. The local police refused to register their complaint about their ill-treatment, but inquiries initiated by the Senior Superintendent of Police and the Executive Magistrate in Bathinda, following public outcry, supported their allegations against the Assistant Sub-Inspector. At that point Renu Bala and her husband began receiving threats from unidentified police officers who said that Renu Bala’s husband would be implicated in false cases if they did not stop pursuing the case. The Executive Magistrate noted in his report that, while he was recording witnesses statements, the accused Assistant Sub-Inspector had sent a police employee to his office to threaten Renu Bala’s husband. However, although the police subsequently registered her complaint, they took no action to investigate it or to protect her or her husband against further threats by police officers. After about two years the police filed an application to cancel the complaint, and on 12 November 1998 the Chief Judicial Magistrate recorded that Renu Bala did not wish to proceed with her complaint, noted that a compromise had been reached between the parties and accepted the cancellation report. A complaint that Renu Bala had lodged with the NHRC in June 1996 received an initial response only in July 2001, but at that time Renu Bala decided not to pursue her complaint further.

Meeta Rani Jha, "Chappal Sticks and Bags," SikhNet, posted 19 Sept. 2000.

Rape is one of the most common and frequent of crimes against women in India. It has many forms: "landlord rape;" rape by those in authority of women employees or juniors within the workplace; "marital rape;" "caste rape," in which caste hierarchy is exercised to rape lower-caste or tribal women; "class rape;" "police rape;" and "army rape." For working class, tribal and Dalit women, rape can occur both in their homes and on their land. The scale and frequency of police rape is quite startling in India: police records show the number of rapes by "government servants" in rural and tribal areas exceed one a day in Delhi.

Government of Denmark, Report on fact-finding mission to Punjab (India), 21 March to 5 April 2000.

Professor Dipankar Gupta ... mentioned that women were ... tortured [by the Punjabi police], for example by rape. The human rights lawyer Ranjan Lakhanpal also mentioned women as a group, who were subjected to rape.

"India," DOS Report 2001.

The rape of persons in custody is part of the broader pattern of custodial abuse. Limits placed on the arrest, search, and police custody of women appear effectively to limit the frequency of rape in custody, although it does occur on occasion. According to The Times of India, a tribal woman alleged that she was raped by three Special Task Force personnel in October. She stated that the personnel forced their way into her home to obtain information about militants. In November, according to the Times of India, a High Court ordered an inquiry into an alleged custodial gang rape of a girl who had been arrested in connection with militancy. Mary Lushai alleged that three policemen raped her in Manu police station in Dhalai district. In September 2000, a 16-year-old girl suspect arrested on suspicion of petty theft was raped by two policemen in a police van in West Bengal. On February 2, the chief of the detective department submitted a report stating that the reported rape was "baseless and far from the truth"; however, the victim had become pregnant, reportedly as a result of the attack. In August, the girl was awarded $1,044 (50,000 Rs) as compensation by the divisional bench of the Calcutta High Court. However, the Government has not disciplined or charged the police officers involved in the incident, despite repeated requests from the court.

NGO's claim that rape by police, including custodial rape, is more common than NHRC figures indicate. Although evidence is lacking, a higher incidence of abuse appears credible, given other evidence of abusive behavior by police and the likelihood that many rapes go unreported due to a sense of shame and a fear of retribution among victims. ...

According to press reports, prison officials used prisoners as domestic servants and sold female prisoners to brothels (see Sections 5, 6.c., and 6.f.).

IND31826.E, “India: Whether cases of rape by police force members are brought to the attention of the public; the redress available to victims; and the sentences imposed on police force members found guilty of rape,” 18 May 1999. Ottawa: IRB, 1999.

According to Varsha Chandran, an advocate and activist with Sakshi, many rapes take place in police stations, and in the majority of rape cases, the police "do not bother to lodge complaints and doctors and nurses delay or fudge the medical examination that is vital as evidence," fighting lengthy court cases is extremely costly and thus prevents many victims from "seeking justice," and many rape victims do not seek justice from the courts because defence lawyers "invariably question them on their 'sexual experience' in a bid to establish their 'loose character'"(India Abroad 10 July 1998a). Other sources corroborate the financial, social, emotional and other difficulties facing rape victims in their attempt to seek redress, report the rape to the police and lay charges, as well as the delays in medical examinations (M2 Presswire 16 Nov. 1998; IPS 24 Mar. 1999; AP 4 Oct. 1998; The Tribune 19 June 1998; India Abroad 10 July 1998b). Women's activists also report that "the bias against a rape victim becomes evident right from the time she files a complaint. She is mocked and ridiculed and very often a complaint is not filed. Harassment by police officials is one of the most common complaints of women's groups that take up cases on behalf of rape victims" (ibid.).

In 1997 14,000 women were raped throughout India, although this figure represents only those rapes that were reported; many women are too afraid to report the rape and file a complaint (India Abroad 10 July 1998b). Approximately 150,000 women were assaulted throughout India in 1998, according to the all-India general secretary of the All Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), and in the first half of the year, "at least four women were subjected to rape every day," of whom the largest number of victims were Dalit women (The Hindu 9 Jan. 1999).


Human Rights Watch, “Mexico: Probe charges of police brutality in Guadelajara,”, 15 July 2004.

Karen Vasquez, a 20-year-old university student from Guadelajara, told Human Rights watch that police subjected female detainees [from the May 28 2004 protest march in Guadelajara] to sexual humiliation. “They sent us into the room in groups of two. We had to take off all of our clothes for inspections and then they made us do sit-ups while they watched.”

Amnesty International, “Women Raped by the Military,” The Campaign to Stop Torture, January 2001.

Mexican soldiers reportedly raped two indigenous women from the community of Barrio Neuvo San Jose, Tlacoachhistlahuaca municipality, Guerrerrro State, on April 21, 1999. Nearly two years on no one appears to have been brought to justice.

[Victoriana], aged 50, and [Francisca], aged 33, left their homes on the morning of 21 April1 999 to go ins each of [Antonio], Victoriana’s 10-year-old grandson, and [Evaristo], aged 27, Francisca’s brother-in-law. They had not been seen since going to harvest their crops the day before. “When we got to the field we found a military camp. We tried to run away but they saw us, caught up with us and took us to some abandoned houses where they raped us,” said Victoriana. Both women told how the armed soldiers threw them to the ground, tied their hands behind their backs and ripped off their skirts before raping them. Three soldiers raped Victoriana while others dragged Francisca into a nearby ravine where she lost consciousness and was also raped.

According to Victoriana’s son, relaying his mother’s testimony in Spanish, the men were all in army uniform: “[One of them] pulled down his trousers…. He covered her face with her clothes…. She was bleeding for a few days afterwards.”

It was not until May 7, 1999 that Victoriana and Francisca learned that Antonio and Evaristo had been killed by soldiers, who claimed that the two attacked them with guns.


Nigeria. Rape - the Silent Weapon,” Amnesty International, 28 Nov. 2006.

Rape of women and girls by both the police and security forces, and within their homes and community, is acknowledged to be endemic in Nigeria – not only by human rights defenders but also by some government officials at both federal and state levels.(1)

The government, however, is failing in its obligation to exercise due diligence: the perpetrators invariably escape punishment, and women and girls who have been raped are denied any form of redress for the serious crimes against them.

Amnesty International has found that the Nigerian police force and security forces commit rape in many different circumstances, both on and off duty. Rape is at times used strategically to coerce and intimidate entire communities. Amnesty International has met some of the women and girls who have been raped, some of whom have been abducted by the security forces in areas of the country where violence is rife, and has documented their harrowing experiences – most recently during visits to Nigeria in January and February 2006.

The government’s response has been, and continues to be, woefully inadequate. Rape is a crime under Nigerian national law and is an internationally recognised human rights violation. Despite this, the government is failing in both its national and international obligations to prevent, investigate and prosecute rape, whether committed by state actors or non-state actors, and to provide any reparations to the victims. Further, Amnesty International has discovered that the Nigerian government has failed in its international obligations to take action against agents of the state who have committed rape and sexual abuse, and has failed to amend discriminatory legislation that guarantees impunity from charges of rape. ...

The Nigerian Police Force is notorious for persistent human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions and torture. Amnesty International has received credible reports that women have been raped by the police in the street, while being transferred to police stations, while in police custody, or when visiting male detainees.

When Amnesty International interviewed the Commissioners of Police in Lagos and Enugu States in January 2006, they demonstrated some understanding of the seriousness of the crime of rape in general. The Lagos State Commissioner of Police also acknowledged the importance of obtaining a medical examination within 24 hours of the rape. Both stated that the victim could request to file a report with a female police officer. When asked how many reports of rape by police officers had been reported, however, the responses were categorical: in the case of Enugu State, "rape by police has not happened"; and, in the case of Lagos State, no such reports had been received. The Commissioners of Police, on the other hand, pointed to an increased level of rape of young girls by men within the family and the local community.

Amnesty International has, however, interviewed victims of rape where the perpetrators have been identified by the victims as members of the Nigerian Police Force, including in Enugu State. The organization has also received many reports of rape by the police from human rights organizations throughout Nigeria, including Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL), Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), and Project Alert, and from the Nigerian media.

"The police use their authoritative position over detainees and people visiting… Everybody knows that rape and other sexual violence by the police happens on a daily basis, but there are no reports," the then Executive Director of the National Human Rights Commission told Amnesty International in February 2006.(6) According to Uju Eneh, WACOL’s Acting Director in Enugu State, inadequate reporting and investigation of rape by police officers was partly because "only really few of the police officers are willing to do something. Lots [of them] cover up for the others". The Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions also admitted to Amnesty International in January 2006 that she has heard of cases where the police commit rape, but that no such cases were currently before her.

The Nigerian non-governmental organization Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) has identified rape and other forms of sexual violence, or the threat of such violence, as among various methods of torture used by the police to extract confessions or other information. Such methods include insertion of foreign objects, such as broomsticks or broken bottles, into the woman’s vagina. Both detainees and members of their families have been subjected to rape or the threat of rape. In one case, the three-year-old daughter of a detainee was reported to have been raped.(7)

3.1.1 Abuse of power and authority

Although the role of the police is to protect the human rights of all people within Nigeria and to maintain law and order, Amnesty International has documented many instances where the abuse of their authority has resulted in rape. Women and girls have been raped by police on patrol or during arrest and detention – including in cases where no criminal offence is suspected.

According to Joy Nzi Ezeilo, Executive Director of WACOL, "the police abus[e] their power, either while on duty or off duty but still wearing their uniform". She explained that few such cases are reported because "women who have been raped by the police are afraid of being stigmatized in the community and in the family". In addition, the police are generally not trusted to investigate adequately alleged human rights violations by their own forces, given corruption within the police force and lack of an independent police complaints mechanism.

The rape of two young students who were abducted and repeatedly raped by three police officers, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police, in Enugu State in 2004 elicited national and international condemnation.

The two students, aged 17 and 18 years at the time, told Amnesty International in January 2006 how, on 27 September 2004, they were abducted by two men with Nigerian Police Force badges while returning home from the market: "We begged him to let us go, but the policeman said he would arrest us. When we refused to get into the car, the other man pushed us inside". They were threatened with arrest on trumped-up charges if they protested, and were forced to go with the police officers to the police detective college. They were subsequently taken to the home of one of the men, having being told that they would be safer there than in custody. They were, however, repeatedly raped:

"A detective colleague came into the house, he smelled of alcohol… I don’t know what happened; he said he doesn’t have money. He asked me for money for drink, [but] I said [I] have no money. He reassured me he won’t harm me. Then [the] man’s face changed. He said he won’t do any harm. I was crying but [he] told [me] to be quiet. He said it’s final. He can shoot us. I was crying and before I knew it I was pushed inside [the] room. He shouted ‘shut up’ and said we should take off our clothes. He took out a gun and showed us the bullets, and pulled off his clothes. He raped me three times. Afterwards I was crying and he looked for fuel to take us back. It was around midnight we were brought to other men who raped us too as payment for the petrol."

Both women have been assisted by WACOL in Enugu and the Centre for the Victims of Extra-Judicial Killings and Torture (CVEKT) which has provided medical assistance.

CVEKT submitted complaints to the police in Enugu State, the National Assembly, the National Human Rights Commission, and the Inspector General of Police (IGP). The alleged perpetrators were arrested but released on bail a day later. WACOL also wrote to the IGP. The then Federal Minister for Women’s Affairs, Obong Rita Akpan, gave assurances that the IGP was investigating the case. The police officers were re-arrested and prosecuted, following a protest march and continuous campaigning by WACOL, including on national radio.

The three police officers were first charged with rape and abduction by a magistrate’s court in Enugu and the case was subsequently transferred to a high court. The defendants pleaded not guilty. An application for bail filed by the defence lawyer on 17 May 2006 was refused and the defendants remained in detention awaiting the next hearing.

Nigerian NGOs have reported to Amnesty International that the girls and members of their families have been subjected to intimidation, including anonymous death threats, to coerce them into withdrawing the case. A senior police officer was also reported to have approached their relatives to offer a bribe if criminal charges were dropped.

NGOs reported to Amnesty International that the case has been investigated by the internal police complaints mechanism. The organization has not been able to obtain information about the status of this investigation, but the police officers are reported to have been dismissed from the Nigerian Police Force.

The CLO’s area coordinator based in Enugu reported a similar case. On 20 February 2002 an 18-year-old woman was reported to have been taken to a police station in Enugu and sexually abused by police officers before being released the next morning. After ensuring that the woman’s case was reported to the police, a barrister from CLO brought the case to the High Court in Enugu. The judgment stated that the acts were "condemnable and intolerable in a civilized society" and that the "men ought never to have been employed in the Nigerian Police Force … there is no doubt that they are apes in the midst of men".(8) The victim was awarded N300,000 (approximately US$2,345) in compensation, but this had not been paid by July 2006. The perpetrators continued to serve in the police force.

WACOL reported the alleged rape of a 13-year-old orphan by an assistant superintendent of police in Lagos during investigation of a theft in June 2005. He is reported to have taken her from police custody, claiming that he was transferring her case to the Police Divisional Headquarters at Karu, Abuja. He is alleged to have taken her to his residence and raped her. The case was first referred to a magistrate’s court and subsequently transferred to the Abuja High Court.(9) Amnesty International has not been able to obtain any update on this case.

Project Alert in Lagos reported allegations of the rape of refugees in 2005 by members of the Nigerian Police Force stationed in a camp administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Osun State. Despite repeated requests, Amnesty International has received no further details from UNHCR about these allegations.

In November 2005, following an investigation by the UN into allegations of rape by Nigerian police serving with MONUC, the UN peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the entire Nigerian contingent was withdrawn from MONUC and at least 10 police officers were also dismissed from service in Nigeria having been found responsible for rape. A representative of the Nigerian Police Force, however, stated that they would not face any criminal charges in Nigeria. The police Public Relations Officer, Haz Iwendi, was reported as saying: "These are typical Nigerian police. They went there and instead of doing the job they were sent to do, they started abusing little girls and raping women."(10)

3.1.2 Rape in custody

Many non-government organizations, including those working specifically on prison reform, have reported that women and girls are frequently raped while in detention, or when they visit a detained male relative. Uju Agomoh, Executive Director of Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), a leading non-governmental organization working on rehabilitation and prison reform, explained that sometimes female visitors are faced with serious consequences as a result of police force corruption. They believe that by being forced into having sex with a police officer, the detainee that they are visiting may be released more quickly. This kind of corruption within the police force contributes to the state perpetrating and condoning violence, since regardless of consent, neither inmates nor women visiting can have truly consensual relations because of the power relationships involved.(11)

Uju Agomoh further stated that despite the lack of official statistics, unpublished research by NGOs has shown that rape of female detainees in police cells is all too frequent, but because of fear of repercussions victims are very reluctant to report their cases. In a report on torture in June 2005, Access to Justice, a non-governmental organization in Lagos, described how two young women who were arrested in Lagos on allegations of theft had been raped: "the police officers stripped them naked and left them in that state for more than five hours of interrogation, after they infused gaseous substances into their vagina".(12) In another case, a woman suspect was reported to have been told that, if she consented to sex, she would not be tortured and ill-treated during interrogation.(13)

In recent years human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt have reported that the police frequently raid streets known to be frequented by commercial sex workers, harassing, arresting and gang-raping them before releasing them without charge. In February 2006 the then Executive Director of the National Human Rights Commission told Amnesty International: "Police often arrest prostitutes, have sexual intercourse with them and then release them".

Rape inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official can be torture if it is committed for any of the prohibited purposes contained within Article 1(1) of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture). Rape is sometimes used to extract confessions from a criminal suspect, or to frighten a detainee into submission. In other cases, women relatives visiting detained family members and friends have been raped as a means of exerting pressure on the detainee. In each of these instances, the state is obliged not only to prevent, investigate and prosecute the crime of rape but also to prevent, investigate and prosecute rape as a form of torture. Consent that is coerced through threat or false promises is not consent in Amnesty International’s view. At the European Court of Human Rights in the M.C. v Bulgaria (14) case, the court held "In international criminal law, it has recently been recognized that force is not an element of rape and that taking advantage of coercive circumstances to proceed with sexual acts is also punishable."

3.2 Rape in prisons and other detention facilities

The failure to separate men from women in prisons and other places of detention, which is particularly problematic in pre-trial detention in Nigeria, increases the vulnerability of women to rape. The Executive Director of PRAWA explained to Amnesty International that the risk to women was increased where they were held in wings within men’s prisons, especially when these were insecure. The risk was particularly great during outbreaks of violence in prisons.

A Nigerian non-governmental organization reported that most, if not all, women detainees had been raped in the chaos following a prison breakout in Port Harcourt in June 2005. The perpetrators were believed to have included both male detainees and those who had entered the prison from the outside.

Representatives of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in Port Harcourt confirmed these reports to Amnesty International in February 2006. The prison authorities had transferred the women to the prison hospital for medical treatment. The victims, however, had been unable to identify the perpetrators. FIDA representatives raised concerns that, while charges relating to the prison breakout were subsequently brought, no one was charged with rape.

3.3 Nigerian security forces

Security forces deployed in the Niger Delta by the Federal Government to restore law and order and protect oil production have used rape as a counter-insurgency tactic and to intimidate the population. The security forces have used rape to humiliate and dehumanize women and their communities; to coerce them into divulging information about the whereabouts of certain individuals; to intimidate the community into submission; or as a collective punishment. Women have been held for several weeks in sexual slavery in military barracks and repeatedly raped. Amnesty International is not aware of a single case where the alleged perpetrator has been prosecuted. Amnesty International notes that where sexual slavery is part of a ‘widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population with knowledge of the attack’, it is a crime against humanity in international law.(15)

Rape by the security forces in the Niger Delta has been well documented by international non-governmental organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as Nigerian groups such as WACOL and Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC). Amnesty International has no reason to believe that it has decreased. Since the release of allegations these reports of rape and sexual slavery by the security forces have, however, been largely ignored by the government and judicial authorities, apart from the Human Rights Violations Investigations Commission, known as the Oputa Panel, which was established in 1999 to investigate human rights violations committed between 1966 and return to civilian rule in 1999. However, Amnesty International has not seen any evidence that the recommendations have been implemented.

Prompted by the lack of an adequate official response, on 12 November 2002 WACOL organized a "Women’s Court" in Abuja, which was reported to have heard the traumatic accounts of more than 20 victims of gender-based violence in the Niger Delta. The "judges" subsequently made recommendations to the Federal Government. None of these recommendations had, however, been implemented by August 2006. Although some police officers attended the "Women’s Court", the security forces were not represented.

During a visit to the Niger Delta in February 2006, Amnesty International interviewed women who suffered continuing gender-based violence, as well as those raped in Ogoniland in 1994 and in Odi in 1999. Amnesty International believes that cases of rape documented during this and previous visits represent only a fraction of the total number of cases of violence against women in the Niger Delta.

3.3.1 Ogoniland

Violence in the Niger Delta has been particularly intense in Ogoniland, home to the minority ethnic group of the Ogoni. The Ogoni people have been subjected to serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions; the execution after an unfair and politically motivated trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni on 3 November 1995; unlawful arrests; and rape and other forms of sexual violence.

An academic study undertaken in Nigeria identified members of the security forces as being primarily responsible for the gender-based violence, including rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy, committed in Ogoniland between 1990 and 1998.(16) Forty-seven per cent of acts of violence – including violence of a non-sexual nature such as extrajudicial executions, destruction of property and verbal abuse – suffered by Ogoni women was attributed to the security forces. A report published by the non-governmental organization Centre for Democracy and Development in 2001 also documented gender-based violence in the Niger Delta, including in Ogoniland, perpetrated for the most part by the military.(17)

Investigation by the government into human rights violations (covering the period of 1966-1999) by the security forces in Ogoniland has been limited to the work of the Oputa Panel. Although other cases from the Niger Delta may have been considered, those from Ogoniland were prominent during the Oputa Panel’s hearings. The Panel’s public hearings included sessions in Port Harcourt where the experiences of victims, including women who had been raped by members of the security forces, and their families were documented. The report of the Oputa Panel was submitted to the Federal Government in May 2002 but has yet to be made fully public and accessible to the Nigerian people.(18) No one has been brought to justice for the human rights violations committed in Ogoniland and no reparations have been awarded to the victims, many of whom continue to suffer the physical and psychological effects of these violations more than 10 years later.

In February 2006, Amnesty International met several of the women and girls who had been raped in 1994. These harrowing accounts demonstrate the profound and very long term physical, psychological and social consequences of rape: serious physical injuries, unwanted pregnancies, psychological trauma and rejection by families, including husbands, and communities. Suffering is compounded by the denial of any form of justice or reparations.

Grace, an Ogoni human rights defender aged in her 40s, described how soldiers had gang-raped her, and also provided Amnesty International with photographs of injuries sustained by her child as a result of torture.

"I was raped by three army men. They carried guns and they had uniforms. They kicked in the door and one man shouted to me ‘if you move, I’ll move you’, as he hit me in the face. He threw me on the bed and raped me using his gun. Other persons came and also raped me. Another woman had miscarriage because of being raped too. My son was trying to run away from the soldiers but he was beaten up by them. There were no witnesses to the rape. No doctor was available, I treated myself with boiling water and salt and opened my private parts to burn germs in the uterus, I also got herbal drugs [to treat the injuries]. I didn’t report [the rape] to the police, there is no police in Ogoniland, [but] I testified for the Oputa Panel, had my face covered by a black cloth. I have no money so I can’t go to court."

Another woman recounted how she was raped and her husband killed by soldiers in 1994:

"I was lying naked in bed when they came into my house with force, and knocked on the door. They beat me so that I lost some teeth. They carried my husband outside and shot him dead. I had delivered a stillborn child by surgery recently and [the] wound never healed nicely. [There was a large scar across her stomach.] The soldier hit me on wound, and raped me. There were two men. I still have pain in the operation wound. The men in uniform were looking for my husband and other women’s husbands; the wives were sometimes tortured and raped. I was afraid to report it, so I fled to the bush. I didn’t report to [the] chief because he had been detained."

Girls under 18 years were among those raped by the security forces in Ogoniland. Fatima, 10 years old at the time, described how she had been repeatedly raped and held in sexual slavery for five days in April 1994. She had testified at the Oputa Panel hearings, but expressed disappointment that the Panel’s investigations had led neither to prosecution of the alleged perpetrators nor reparations for the victims:

"The army came in at night and asked for my brother and father. I didn’t know where they were. They took me to their station. I stayed there five days. Four men raped and beat me. They all used me. When they saw I was almost dead they dropped me along the road. I couldn’t find anybody. I ran to the clinic inside the bush. My tummy was rising. I saw an old man and he took me to the place. The man operated me in the bush. He was then shot by the army. I remembered wounds all over my body. Now I am called "Army property" by the youth in the community where I live. My father has disowned me. I did not report to anybody. It is a shameful thing."

Peace, now aged 23 but only 11 years old at the time, suffered a similar experience:

"I was in the house at night. Army people push[ed] [into] the house and carr[ied] us to their camp. They beat and raped me. They kept me there for one week, they maltreated me, forced us to cook for them after the raping. I wanted to escape, I managed. When I escaped the army people shot me. Since then I suffer from the raping. I don’t know the cause for the rape and the beating. Since then I have pain in my leg. During that time, [there was] no open clinic. I couldn’t run with the bullet, so I enter the bush. They did not check for rape because I did not have money. My uncle brought me to the hospital. The doctor said I was pregnant, I told him about the rape. He operated me. He put a little thing in my private parts. I have not had a period since then. I am still suffering. I did not have any medical report [to prove that I was raped]. When something like this happens, you are segregated [from the rest of the community].

3.3.2 Choba, Rivers State

In October 1999 the security forces raped women from the Choba community, an Ikwerre community based in Port Harcourt, who together with men from the community, were protesting against perceived long-standing unfulfilled promises by Wilbros, a US company in Port Harcourt.(19) A report by Human Rights Watch provides eyewitness accounts of uniformed security forces and the use of military vehicles. Wilbros, however, claimed that no military forces were called in and that the police force was in charge of dispersing the demonstrators. The report by Human Rights Watch states that, although it cannot "verify the figure of sixty-seven rapes alleged by the community, it seems certain that soldiers did indeed rape quite a large number of women and killed several people".(20) A report by WACOL included the allegations of rape and added that the subsequent outcry had resulted in the establishment of an investigation by the Senate. There is, however, no known outcome to this investigation.(21) None of the perpetrators has been brought to justice. 3.3.3 Odi, Bayelsa State

As many as 200 people were killed when the military invaded the Odi community in Bayelsa State in November 1999. The raid lasted several days and most of the town was razed.

WACOL recorded over 50 allegations of rape by the security forces in Odi in 1999.(22) In February 2006 Amnesty International interviewed some of the women who had been raped, abducted and forced into sexual slavery; many continue to struggle with the physical and psychological consequences.

Gloria, a mother of four, described how she had been raped in front of her children:

"Soldiers came through the only road, and therefore there was no escape so we had to run into the bush. For days I was hiding there, but hunger drove us out to eat and we went back to Odi. The army came and soldiers captured and raped us in the presence of our children, outside my house. There were two men in uniform. As they had finished, there was no food and they only left me there. I went back to bush. After the rape my husband said that he would not want to be married to me anymore because army people had raped me. In our culture it is forbidden for married woman to sleep with [an]other man since he may fall ill in that case. My husband left me, and up until now the children are with me. I have not remarried. I told my husband and my in-laws about the rape but not the police and not the army. There was no medical treatment, and no medical report was obtained after the rape."

Another woman recounted how she had been raped in her home by four army officers:

"In 1999 at the time of the crisis I was at home but my husband was away, four soldiers visited my house. They pushed the door to enter, they brought out my two children who were already sick and in bed. They were thrown out of the house. The men started using me. All four soldiers raped me, I had instant period. One of my children died at that time. We had no food to eat. We were suffering after everything. When husband came back he refused me because if woman is married she can’t meet other man, it is long time traditional custom in our culture. After about one year we came together again, he had married another woman but divorced me. I am still living in his house. Army people wore uniforms, I don’t know their names [and] no witnesses, nobody saw what happened in my house. WACOL has reported to Federal Government but I had not reported to anybody."

Joy, a 35-year-old farmer, described how her husband had left her after she was held in conditions amounting to sexual slavery:

"Before I come back home my older daughter was crying about the coming of Federal troops to destroy Odi. My second daughter was killed and they took the third one. My mother was crying with fear. So the army people captured me and bring me to where they were staying. Three of them used me. They kept me for a week. After the government intervention [they] let me go. When I came back everything was burnt down. My daughter died. In my place when you are used by another man your husband leaves you. He left me since 1999. I went to see a doctor at the hospital one month after. I had health problems: my stomach was swelling. He gave me drugs. I did not do an examination for rape. The government did nothing. I told the chief of the community, and he did not do anything."

Annkio, aged 45 years and widowed with four children, had a similar experience:

"The army people enter the village. I went to the bush with my seven children. We stay[ed] in the bush for a week. I had my menstruation, so I went to the village to pick up and wash some clothes. Three army men came; they asked me to put my finger in my private part to show that I had my menstruation. I had to do it three times because there was not enough blood. They raped me, the three of them. They took me to their camp. I asked if I could go and take my children. They allow me to go and take my children. They didn’t touch the children. I was with them for two weeks before finally they left and I could go back to my house."

The government’s response to the serious human rights violations, including gender-based violence, committed in Odi in November 1999 was wholly inadequate. One of the victims reported that "some free doctors were sent by the government because of the suffering. They gave first aid". As far as Amnesty International is aware, however, there has been no official investigation and no one has been brought to justice. President Olusegun Obasanjo publicly expressed regret about the excessive force used by the military. In a meeting with Amnesty International in mid-2000, however, he defended the deployment of troops in view of the murder of 12 police officers during earlier attempts to arrest armed youths in Odi and said that he had no intention of holding an independent and open inquiry into the events in Odi. (23) President Obasanjo is reported to have told a local television station that he had no apology to make.


Aamer Ahmed Khan, “Pakistan’s Real Problem with Rape,” BBC News, 8 Sept. 2005.

Police accused

These cases either involve allegations of rape against policemen or accusations that the tribal bodies have perverted the course of justice.

Earlier this week, a young woman alleged that she had been gang raped by four policemen in Rawalpindi. One officer was arrested and three others are missing.

The woman said the policemen barged into her house, locked her husband and uncle in a room and raped her.

She was supposedly punished for failing to pay a bribe of 100,000 rupees ($1,674) demanded by the police for the release of her husband.

Last week, a 23-year-old woman from Faisalabad went public with her accusations against police in the city.

She said her husband had been arrested on charges of preparing forged documents for stolen cars.

She was raped allegedly on the orders of the Faisalabad police chief for seeking to publicise her husband's arrest.

The officer has been suspended but not arrested.

A week before that, a married woman with two children in Karachi said she had been gang raped by four local men but a jirga prevented her from reporting the matter to the police.

Instead, the jirga members imposed a fine of 150,000 rupees ($2,500) on the accused. Even that money never reached her, she said.

Hurdles to justice

Apart from the alleged crime, what is common to these women are the problems they have had to confront in their quest for justice.

In the case of one woman from Karachi, the police refused to register a case of rape for over a month - during which time she says she was repeatedly threatened by her rapists.

By the time she managed to have the case registered, it was too late to conduct a medical examination on her.

In most rape cases in Pakistan, the crime is established almost entirely on the basis of medical examination of the complainant.

Eventually, a case was registered but all the accused were awarded bail despite the fact that the woman identified her rapists before the judge. She eventually had to play what is known in Karachi as the "ethnic card".

She is a Mohajir - a name given to Urdu-speaking migrants from India at the time of partition - while her rapists were native Sindhis. She went to the headquarters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) - an influential Mohajir-dominated party - with her case.

It was only after intervention from the MQM's home minister in Sindh that the police launched a fresh hunt for the accused, three of whom had disappeared by then.

Two of them are still at large.

”Musharraf concern at women image,” BBC News, 7 Sept. 2005.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said his country should not be singled out for its treatment of women.

His comments came while addressing a conference on violence against women in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

But two of Pakistan's leading women's rights groups have declined to participate in the meeting.

The conference comes in the same week as two separate cases of women alleging that they were raped by police officers in Pakistan. …

[One] case which attracted widespread attention in Pakistan is that of a woman who alleged that a senior police officer ordered her rape.

The Pakistani government has announced an inquiry into her allegations, but she has said that until the media highlighted her case the authorities did nothing to help her.

In another case this week, a woman accused four policemen of gang-raping her in Rawalpindi. One officer has been arrested and the other three are missing.

Nicholas D. Kristof , “Another Face of Terror,” New York Times, 31 July 2005

"When I treat rape victims, I tell the girls not to go to the police," Dr. Shershah Syed, a prominent gynecologist in Karachi, told me. "Because if she goes to the police, the police will rape her."

British Home Office, “Pakistan,” Country of Origin Information Report, April 2002.

5.6 Police corruption is reported to be widespread. ... Police have ... abused and raped citizens. While the officers responsible for such abuses were sometimes transferred or suspended for their actions, no officer has been convicted and very few have been arrested. In Karachi there were signs of progress in redressing police excesses, however in general police continue to commit serious abuses with impunity.[2b]

Sri Lanka

Rahel Saheed and Marty Radlett, “Violence of a different kind also grips island,” Washington Times, 14 Sept. 2002.

Violence against women is both a public and a private matter in Sri Lanka, says the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, a body of global experts that monitors whether governments are honouring their commitments to the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The committee highighted its concern over years of rape and sexual assault by government soldiers at police checkpoints against minority Tamil women when it reviewed Sri Lanka’s record on women’s rights in January.

Danish Immigration Service, Security and Human Rights Sitruation, Enetry and Exit Procedures and Personal Documentation. Report on fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka, 1-12 October 2001.

According to UNHCR, women in general and Tamil women in particular often face difficulties, including harassment, at checkpoints. ... The First Secretary of the Netherlands Embassy referred to a case in June 2001 in Maradana in Colombo where a Tamil woman had been picked up from her house and allegedly raped by police offciers after having passed a checkpoint at night. ... The First Secretary added ... that similar cases had been reported in Jaffna, and that there had been an incident in Mannar in 2001 in which two women were raped by navy officers after being picked up at a checkpoint. ... The [Executive Director of INFORM] stated that she had heard many stories of harassment of women in Eastern Province, but said that such harassment was rare in Colombo, where police have become more cautious after the Maradana incident. However, the IHR lawyer took the view that many parents who fear for their daughters' future and possibility of getting married are not reporting incidents which take place at checkpoints.

“Sri Lanka: Rape in custody,” Amnesty International, March 2002.

On 19 March 2001, two young Sri Lankan women suffered a terrifying ordeal at the hands of state officials - the very people who should protect them from harm.

Sinnathamby Sivamany, aged 24, and Ehamparam Wijikala, aged 22, both internally displaced Tamils, were arrested by navy officials in the coastal city of Mannar and taken to the office of a special police unit. There, Ehamparam Wijikala was blindfolded, beaten, stripped and raped by two officials.

Sinnathamby Sivamany was tortured by a navy official in a van outside the police unit. The official blindfolded her, ripped off her clothes and raped her. Soon after she was taken to join Ehamparam Wijikala in the police unit. Both women were made to parade naked in front of the men. They were then suspended for 90 minutes from a pole to which they had been tied by their ankles and wrists, and beaten with thick wire.

Such allegations of rape in custody by army, police and navy officials in Sri Lanka have increased markedly in the past year. Most incidents have occurred in the context of the armed conflict between the security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which is fighting for an autonomous state in the north and east of the country. Many of the victims have been internally displaced women.

AI has welcomed steps taken by successive governments in recent years to combat torture and rape in custody. Despite such steps, however, complaints of such serious abuses are still not dealt with effectively by police, magistrates or doctors. This is particularly true when those responsible for the investigation (the police) are colleagues of the alleged perpetrators.

Among other reasons why investigations into complaints of rape are generally unsuccessful are: threats by the perpetrators against the victim or witnesses; political or other pressure brought to bear on the investigators; and the withdrawal of the complaint by the victim because of the stigma associated with rape. To AI's knowledge, not a single perpetrator of rape in custody has been brought to justice.

Sri Lanka: Rape in custody. Amnesty International. 28 January 2002.

In Sri Lanka, like in many other countries, incidents of rape in the context of armed conflict such as the above examples are reported on a regular basis.(2) During 2001, Amnesty International has noted a marked rise in allegations of rape by police, army and navy personnel. (See Appendix for details of some cases reported recently.)

Among the victims of rape by the security forces are many internally displaced women, women who admit being or having been members of the LTTE and female relatives of members or suspected male members of the LTTE. Some reports of rape in custody concern children as young as 14 (See Case No. 5, Thangiah Vijayalalitha, Appendix 1).

Complaints of rape, like other complaints of torture, are often not effectively dealt with by police, magistrates or doctors. Deficiencies in the early stages of the criminal investigation process have repeatedly contributed to the ultimate collapse of the investigation of the alleged rape and the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators.

Alarmed at the apparent rise in reports of rape, Amnesty International on 4 April 2001 wrote to the President of Sri Lanka urging her to take action to stop rape by security forces and bring perpetrators to justice. The appeal followed reports of rape by security forces in Mannar, Batticaloa, Negombo and Jaffna, including the rape of Sinnathamby Sivamany and Ehamparam Wijikala described above. To date, no response has been received to the appeal.

In March 2000, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women (hereafter the Special Rapporteur), who herself is a Sri Lankan national, expressed grave concern over the lack of serious investigation into allegations of gang rape and murder of women and girls. The Special Rapporteur expressed the hope that every effort would be made to prevent further violations through the investigation of alleged incidents and the prosecution of alleged perpetrators in a manner consistent with international human rights standards. In its response, the government provided details regarding the progress of investigations into two of four individual cases raised by the Special Rapporteur. It also stated that "every case of alleged criminal conduct committed by the armed forces and police has been investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted, although there may have been unavoidable legal delays". (3) Contrary to the government’s assertion, to Amnesty International’s knowledge, not a single member of the security forces has been brought to trial in connection to incidents of rape in custody although one successful prosecution has been brought in a case where the victim of rape was also murdered. An analysis of the cases in which investigations were conducted and trial proceedings initiated suggests that the authorities are far more inclined to take action if there is a considerable amount of public pressure. ...

Ida Carmelita was a former member of the LTTE who had surrendered to the police about a month before she was gang raped and killed by five soldiers at Pallimunai, Mannar district on 12 July 1999. She had been shot through her vagina. In his report, the DMO in Mannar documented evidence of rape and sexual violence, including bites on her breasts and lips. Two of the suspects had been recognized by a neighbour and another by the brother of the victim. A corporal and a soldier were identified at an identification parade by witnesses and taken into custody. However, after two key witnesses were threatened and subsequently fled to India, the case is no longer proceeding. The suspects have been released on bail.

The UN Special Rapporteur in March 2000 highlighted the case of Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal, a 29-year-old Tamil woman who had been reportedly gang raped and then killed by navy soldiers on 28 December 1999 in Pungudutivu, near Jaffna. She observed that despite an order by the President of Sri Lanka to immediately investigate the events, it was reported that "very little [was] being done to pursue the matter". Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal had been abducted from her home, situated at about 500m from a navy camp. Her father and brother were tied up by four security officers dressed in black. Her dead body was found on barren land about 100m away from their home the next day. After public protest, her body was sent to Colombo for post-mortem by a senior JMO who indicated that the cause of death was "asphyxia due to gagging"; that her underpants had been stuffed inside her mouth; and that "forcible sexual intercourse" had taken place. The father and brother were allegedly threatened not to reveal the identity of the four men who came to the house. According to the Director of the Criminal Investigation Department, who had been instructed by the President of Sri Lanka to investigate the rape and murder, the brother had "not been able to identify any of the four persons who came to the house".

The criminal investigations into the rape and murder of both Ida Carmelita and Sarathambal Saravanbavananthakurukal have not proceeded beyond the initial inquiry stage. No charges have been filed against the alleged perpetrators and it is unlikely that those responsible for the rape and murder of the two women will ever be brought to justice.

Seventy-year-old Poomani Saravanai, an internally displaced widow, was raped by two soldiers at Neervely, Jaffna district in front of her son on 31 May 2000. The next day, she courageously made a complaint at the Atchelu army camp. She was able to identify the two soldiers on that day. It is reported that they were sacked from the army. However, nothing further was done at this crucial initial stage. It was not until 5 and 6 June that Poomani Saravanai was taken to a DMO. By then no evidence of rape could be found. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, the police did not initiate any action against the two soldiers.

UNHCR, Background Paper on Refugees and Asylum Seekers from Sri Lanka. UNHCR, June 2001.

The Special Rapporteur on torture continued to receive information on the practice of torture and other forms of ill-treatment... The reported methods of torture include ... being stripped; ... gang rape; ... rape at military checkpoints....

In March 2000, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, expressed her dismay that the "incidence of gang rape and murder of women and girls by Sri Lankan soldiers [was] continuing unabated in Sri Lanka." By letter of 13 March 2000, she stated her concern over the lack of serious investigation of allegations of gang rape and murder of women and girls, and focussed on trhee individual cases that were brought to her attention.

United States

United States

“Girls Abused in New York’s Juvenile Prisons, Say ACLU and Human Rights Watch,” American Civil Liberties Union, 25 Sept. 2006.

NEW YORK -- Girls in New York's juvenile prisons are being abused and neglected by state authorities, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. …

Incarcerated girls may … be at risk of sexual abuse. Human Rights Watch and the ACLU documented three cases in the past five years of staff having intercourse with their wards. The report also reveals that some staff touch girls in sexual ways and make sexual comments. Staff at Tryon and Lansing have also humiliated girls by publicly commenting on their past sexual history, sexual abuse or infection with sexually transmitted diseases.

”ACLU of New Mexico Files Lawsuit Over Jail Guard's Sexual Abuse of Female Prisoners,” American Civil Liberties Union, 25 Jan. 2006.

ALBUQUERQUE, NM - The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico today filed claims of sexual abuse and 'cruel and unusual punishment' against a McKinley County detention officer, Brian Orr, on behalf of two female inmates from Wyoming.

"If proper safeguards had been in place, these assaults might never have occurred," said Peter Simonson, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Mexico. "Jails aren't supposed to be pleasant places. However, prisoners are entitled to basic rights, and protection against predatory guards certainly is one of them."

During 2003, Sheila Black and Cristy Herden were incarcerated at the McKinley County jail pursuant to a housing contract between McKinley County and the Wyoming Department of Corrections to relieve overcrowding in Wyoming's main prison for women. Orr repeatedly sexually assaulted the two women and photographed them in the nude, causing the women physical injury and severe psychological and emotional distress, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also accuses the jail's acting warden, Gilbert Lewis, the board of McKinley County commissioners, and the company that managed the jail, Management and Training Corporation, of negligence and failure to properly train and supervise Orr.

Luke Harding, “The Other Prisoners,” Guardian U.K., 20 May 2004.

Most of the coverage of abuse at Abu Ghraib has focused on male detainees. But what of the five women held in the jail, and the scores elsewhere in Iraq?

The scandal at Abu Ghraib prison was first exposed not by a digital photograph but by a letter. In December 2003, a woman prisoner inside the jail west of Baghdad managed to smuggle out a note. Its contents were so shocking that, at first, Amal Kadham Swadi and the other Iraqi women lawyers who had been trying to gain access to the US jail found them hard to believe.

The note claimed that US guards had been raping women detainees, who were, and are, in a small minority at Abu Ghraib. Several of the women were now pregnant, it added. The women had been forced to strip naked in front of men, it said. The note urged the Iraqi resistance to bomb the jail to spare the women further shame.

Late last year, Swadi, one of seven female lawyers now representing women detainees in Abu Ghraib, began to piece together a picture of systemic abuse and torture perpetrated by US guards against Iraqi women held in detention without charge. This was not only true of Abu Ghraib, she discovered, but was, as she put it, "happening all across Iraq".

In November last year, Swadi visited a woman detainee at a US military base at al-Kharkh, a former police compound in Baghdad. "She was the only woman who would talk about her case. She was crying. She told us she had been raped," Swadi says. "Several American soldiers had raped her. She had tried to fight them off and they had hurt her arm. She showed us the stitches. She told us, 'We have daughters and husbands. For God's sake don't tell anyone about this.'"

Astonishingly, the secret inquiry launched by the US military in January, headed by Major General Antonio Taguba, has confirmed that the letter smuggled out of Abu Ghraib by a woman known only as "Noor" was entirely and devastatingly accurate. While most of the focus since the scandal broke three weeks ago has been on the abuse of men, and on their sexual humilation in front of US women soldiers, there is now incontrovertible proof that women detainees - who form a small but unknown proportion of the 40,000 people in US custody since last year's invasion - have also been abused. Nobody appears to know how many. But among the 1,800 digital photographs taken by US guards inside Abu Ghraib there are, according to Taguba's report, images of a US military policeman "having sex" with an Iraqi woman.

Taguba discovered that guards have also videotaped and photographed naked female detainees. The Bush administration has refused to release other photographs of Iraqi women forced at gunpoint to bare their breasts (although it has shown them to Congress) - ostensibly to prevent attacks on US soldiers in Iraq, but in reality, one suspects, to prevent further domestic embarrassment.

Earlier this month it emerged that an Iraqi woman in her 70s had been harnessed and ridden like a donkey at Abu Ghraib and another coalition detention centre after being arrested last July. Labour MP Ann Clwyd, who investigated the case and found it to be true, said, "She was held for about six weeks without charge. During that time she was insulted and told she was a donkey."

In Iraq, the existence of photographs of women detainees being abused has provoked revulsion and outrage, but little surprise. Some of the women involved may since have disappeared, according to human rights activists. Professor Huda Shaker al-Nuaimi, a political scientist at Baghdad University who is researching the subject for Amnesty International, says she thinks "Noor" is now dead. "We believe she was raped and that she was pregnant by a US guard. After her release from Abu Ghraib, I went to her house. The neighbours said her family had moved away. I believe she has been killed."

Honour killings are not unusual in Islamic society, where rape is often equated with shame and where the stigma of being raped by an American soldier would, according to one Islamic cleric, be "unbearable". The prospects for rape victims in Iraq are grave; it is hardly surprising that no women have so far come forward to talk about their experiences in US-run jails where abuse was rife until early January.

One of the most depressing aspects of the saga is that, unaccountably, the US military continues to hold five women in solitary confinement at Abu Ghraib, in cells 2.5m (8ft) long by 1.5m (5ft) wide. Last week, the military escorted a small group of journalists around the camp, where hundreds of relatives gather every day in a dusty car park in the hope of news.

The prison is protected by guard towers, an outer fence topped with razor wire, and blast walls. Inside, more than 3,000 Iraqi men are kept in vast open courtyards, in communal brown tents exposed to dust and sun. (Last month, nearly 30 detainees were killed in two separate mortar attacks on the prison; about a dozen survivors are still in the hospital wing, shackled to their beds with leather belts.) As our bus pulled up, the men ran towards the razor wire. They unfurled banners and T-shirts that read: "Why are we here?" "When are you going to do something about this scandal?" "We cannot talk freely."

The women, however, are kept in another part of the prison, cellblock 1A, together with 19 "high-value" male detainees. It is inside this olive-painted block, which leads into a courtyard of shimmering green saysaban trees and pink flowering shrubs, that the notorious photographs of US troops humiliating Iraqi prisoners were taken, many of them on the same day, November 8, 2003. A wooden interrogation shed is a short stroll away. As we arrived at the cellblock, the women shouted to us through the bars. An Iraqi journalist tried to talk to them; a female US soldier interrupted and pushed him away. The windows of the women's cells have been boarded up; birds nest in the outside drainpipe. Captain Dave Quantock, now in charge of prisoner detention at Abu Ghraib, confirmed that the women prisoners are in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. They have no entertainment; they do have a Koran.

Since the scandal first emerged there is general agreement that conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved. A new, superior catering company now provides the inmates' food, and all the guards involved in the original allegations of abuse have left.

Nevertheless, there remain extremely troubling questions as to why these women came to be here. Like other Iraqi prisoners, all five are classified as "security detainees" - a term invented by the Bush administration to justify the indefinite detention of prisoners without charge or legal access, as part of the war on terror. US military officials will only say that they are suspected of "anti-coalition activities".

Two of the women are the wives of high-ranking and absconding Ba'ath party members; two are accused of financing the resistance; and one allegedly had a relationship with the former head of Iraq's secret police, the Mukhabarat. The women, in their 40s and 50s, come from Kirkuk and Baghdad; none has seen their families or children since their arrest earlier this year.

According to Swadi, who managed to visit Abu Ghraib in late March, the allegations against the women are "absurd". "One of them is supposed to be the mistress of the former director of the Mukhabarat. In fact, she's a widow who used to own a small shop. She also worked as a taxi driver, ferrying children to and from kindergarten. If she really had a relationship with the director of the Mukhabarat, she would scarcely be running a kiosk. These are baseless charges," she adds angrily. "She is the only person who can provide for her children."

The women appear to have been arrested in violation of international law - not because of anything they have done, but merely because of who they are married to, and their potential intelligence value. US officials have previously acknowledged detaining Iraqi women in the hope of convincing male relatives to provide information; when US soldiers raid a house and fail to find a male suspect, they will frequently take away his wife or daughter instead.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, whose devastating report on human rights abuses of Iraqi prisoners was delivered to the government in February but failed to ring alarm bells, says the problem lies with the system. "It is an absence of judicial guarantees," says Nada Doumani, spokesperson for the ICRC. "The system is not fair, precise or properly defined."

During her visit to Abu Ghraib in March, one of the prisoners told Swadi that she had been forced to undress in front of US soldiers. "The Iraqi translator turned his head in embarrassment," she said. The release of detainees, meanwhile, appears to be entirely arbitrary: three weeks ago one woman prisoner who spoke fluent English and who had been telling her guards that she would sue them was suddenly released. "They got fed up with her," another lawyer, Amal Alrawi, says.

Last Friday, about 300 male prisoners were freed from Abu Ghraib, the first detainees to be released since the abuse scandal first broke. A further 475 are due to be released tomorrow, although it is not clear if any of the women will be among them. General Geoffery Miller, who is responsible for overhauling US military jails in Iraq, has promised to release 1,800 prisoners across Iraq "within 45 days". Some 2,000 are likely to remain behind bars, he says. Iraqi lawyers and officials aredemanding that the US military hands the prisons over to Iraqi management on June 30, when the coalition transfers limited powers to a UN-appointed caretaker Iraqi government. Last week, Miller said "negotiations" with Iraqi officials were ongoing.

Relatives who gathered outside Abu Ghraib last Friday said it was common knowledge that women had been abused inside the jail. Hamid Abdul Hussein, 40, who was there hoping to see his brother Jabar freed, said former detainees who had returned to their home town of Mamudiya reported that several women had been raped. "We've know this for months," he said. "We also heard that some women committed suicide."

While the abuse may have stopped, the US military appears to have learned nothing from the experience. Swadi says that when she last tried to visit the women at Abu Ghraib, "The US guards refused to let us in. When we complained, they threatened to arrest us."


"ZIMBABWE: Women refugees in South Africa claim rape and torture at home,", 7 Dec. 2006.

JOHANNESBURG, 7 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - The South African government has been condemned for its "complete silence" over the high level of rape reported by Zimbabwean women applying for asylum, at the hands of the security forces in their country.

At least 15 percent of the Zimbabwean women refugees who visited a counselling centre run by the Zimbabwe Torture Victims/Survivors Project (ZTVP) in Johannesburg over the past 20 months alleged they had been raped.

"The most frequent perpetrators reported were supporters of the ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) ... state agents - police, army and Central Intelligence Organisation [CIO] - were reported too, with the police being the most frequent state agency reported," said the study by the ZTVP.

The ZTVP is a partner project of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, an NGO that helps communities deal with violence. The project offers medical assistance, counselling and limited social assistance to Zimbabwean survivors of torture now living in South Africa.

Ahmed Motala, executive director of the centre and a human rights lawyer, lashed out at the South African government for its alleged tacit approval of attempts to block moves to censure Zimbabwe at the United Nations, the African Union and in the Southern African Development Community. "We urge the South African government, now that it is also a member of the UN Security Council, to become more vocal against Zimbabwe."

The ZTVP report, 'Women on the Run: Female Survivors of Torture Amongst Zimbabwean Asylum Seekers and Refugees in South Africa', was released on Thursday to coincide with the global campaign, '16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence', which ends on International Human Rights Day on 10 December. The report based its findings on interviews conducted with 102 women assisted at the centre between February 2005 and September 2006.

Zimbabwe, once a middle-income country, has become the world's fastest shrinking economy outside a war zone. An inflation rate of around 1,200 percent has pushed the price of even a basic shopping basket beyond the reach of many Zimbabweans, who have sought refuge in neighbouring South Africa. An estimated three million Zimbabweans are now live abroad: one-quarter of Zimbabwe's domestic population.

About 32 percent of all alleged torture survivors who were sought out by the ZTVP during the 20-month period were women. At least 67 percent of the women at the centre said they had been politically active in some way when they lived in Zimbabwe, and 43 percent described themselves as members of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Last month, a Human Rights Watch report alleged that the systematic abuse of rights activists, including excessive use of force by police during protests, arbitrary arrests and detention, had intensified in Zimbabwe in the past year.

The ZTVP report contained harrowing accounts of sexual violence. The most recent case was a woman, identified as 'X' to protect her identity, who claimed she had been raped by the police after she attended an MDC meeting in April this year, in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare. She was allegedly held in a police station for three days without food and on her release was forced into a van and taken to a isolated area and raped by a policeman.

"She [X] tried to resist. She was trampled upon, and burnt with a cigarette on her thighs and buttocks. The perpetrator ejaculated inside her vagina and smeared his semen all over her body. He also urinated on her. He did this so that she could not forget the experience. She was taken back to Harare police station and instructed to bathe herself. She was also threatened with death should she inform anyone," said the report.

In a snap survey by ZTVP in 2005, 30 percent of the women complained that they had suffered political violence, and 44 percent reported having been denied access to food because they were opposition supporters.

Only 36 percent of the women interviewed for the report had been given asylum seeker status, and a mere two percent had been given refugee seeker status (an asylum seeker is a person who has applied for refugee status). The report commented that these figures should cause the "South African authorities serious embarrassment".

Jacob van Garderen, national coordinator of the Refugee and Migrant Rights Project at Lawyers for Human Rights, a South African NGO, said South Africa was struggling to clear a backlog of 7,000 applications by Zimbabwean asylum seekers. "This is besides the 11,000 fresh application filed since the beginning of this year [2006] until June." ...

IRIN was unable to get comment from the Zimbabwean government, which has consistently denied claims of torture and abuse in the country.

Background Research

Uma Chakravati, “Rape, class and the State,” PUCL, Sept. 1982.

While rape may take the form of individual violence of men against women, often, as disturbingly, rape occurs as an instrument of repression, and is used as a political weapon. It then becomes a potent instrument for the intimidation of whole sections of people in which women are specifically the victims of a peculiarly brutal and dehumanizing form of violence. Violence by individual men on individual women is itself a serious violation of women's rights but in the context of civil liberties it is important to highlight the growing incidence of custodial rape by agencies of the State such as forest officials, army personnel, and especially by policemen.

Women's organizations have particularly focused on custodial rape and it is hoped that it is hoped that with sustained pressure from women's organizations the laws relating to custodial rape may be revised in favour of women. Both the Mathura case and the Rameeza Bee case have receive a measure of public support. In the Rameeza Bee case widespread protests by the people resulted in the appointment of the Muktadar Commission to enquire into the incident. Subsequently, women's organizations have been active in filing a public interest review petition in the High Court against the Raichur District Court which had rejected the charge of rape against the policemen while indicting them on minor grounds. These are positive developments and it would appear that women's organizations can be most effective in the area of custodial rape by their continued vigilance.

The use of rape as a political weapon however has not received the same attention either by women's organizations or by civil liberties groups. The most reprehensible development of social and political life in recent years is that there has been an aggravation of the use of violence, and this can be directly related to the decline in the social and political situation in India. Coercion or the threat of coercion, which had been exercised in a concealed manner is now expressed as a more direct assertion of the strength of powerful groups. The State and the ruling elites have increasingly resorted to the use of violence as a means of systematic repression of the growing articulation of the demands of the people both in rural and in urban India. Mafia tactics in crushing trade union movements and in the suppression of the organizations of the rural poor, which may take the form of armed reprisals and the wholesale burning and looting of settlements, are common occurrences everywhere in India. It is in this context that one must view the phenomenon of increasing violence on women and more specifically of rape.

It is now the standard practice of the rural landed elite to indulge in the rape of the womenfolk of the rural poor when they begin to assert themselves in sharecropping disputes, or in reclaiming lost land, or in demanding the payment of minimum wages. The use of violence as part of class conflict in rural India which results in rape is an expression of the feudal attitude of the landed classes which views women as the property of men. Therefore when the ruling classes assert their brute strength in savage reprisals against the attempted resistance of the poor they rape 'their' women. All that the poor have is a few pots and pans and their families. Rape in this context becomes the most naked instrument of repressions since the violation of women serves to highlight the helplessness of the poor.

But the reverse situation is also beginning to occur and sometimes a spark is lit when the rape of women of the poorer sections or the Harijans serves to focus on the generals exploitation of the poor by the rich. When some of these sections organize to demand minimum conditions, the exploitation and rape of women can lead to a resistance in the movement of poor peasants and wage labourers in Patna District in the last two years. The people's movement had held a series of meetings on the incidence of rape and molestation of women and had drafted a code of conduct for the people of the area. Subsequently the rape of a women of Lahsuna village triggered off widespread tension following the protests of the people of the area. In Koduspuka village of Karimnagar District the peasant movement has been actively supported by women who have formed a mahila sangam to protect themselves against rape and insult. Further in the Dalli-Rajahara iron-ore mines at Chattisgarh the militancy of the workers, where women comprise half the workforce, prevented the rape of a fifteen year old adivasi girl by the jawans of the CISF. The workers gheroed the jawans and demanded their arrest. This was a unique occasion for the workers since they succeeded in preventing rape than merely retaliating.

People's movements which have attempted to organize and resists the exploitation of the ruling elite are however subjected not only to armed reprisals of the landlords but also face the repressive power of the State machinery. Mass rape is often used as part of the repressive measures unleashed by the State to crush movements of tribals, peasants, workers, and political dissidents. This has occurred in Beldiha in the Santhal Parganas where CRP men and Bihar policemen surrounded the village and went on a rampage. While the men escaped to the fields the women were trapped with their children. The policemen entered the huts and assaulted and raped the women as part of their effort to crush the adivasi land-grab movement.

Eight women were raped; half of them were between the ages of 12 an 15 and many more women were thrashed mercilessly. In Bailladilla the police opened fire on agitating workers set ablaze their huts and raped their women because the workers were protesting illegal retrenchment. In the north-eastern areas of Nagaland and Mizoram atrocities by the Indian army have become a systematic practice to suppress their struggle for freedom. Victims of police bestiality range from young girls to pregnant women. An analysis of the instances of State violence reveals a sinister pattern that runs through all the incidents in which the suppression of protest movements invariably includes mass rape as one of the weapons of repression. Women activists are special targets of police brutality and here sexual violence, rape, or the threat of rape are the weapons most frequently resorted to for purposes of intimidation and breaking the spirit of these women. Right in the capital a woman activist of the Janata Party was taken to the police station on a minor charge, and then stripped, slapped and threatened.

She was paraded round the a room of the police station naked, kicked on the hips, and threatened with worse treatment if she screamed. The more recent torture of Madhu, whose action in rescuing a girl from a brothel in Agra in which she had revealed the complicity of the police in running the brothel, resulted in brutal physical torture. Similarly a report compiled by the Akhil Banga Mahila Samiti described some of the methods used against women activists of the Naxalite movement at the Lal Bazar police station in Calcutta where they were stripped, thrashed, and burned on all parts of their bodies. Even when rape is not actually used as part of the torture of women it is ever present as a probable weapon in the hands of the police.

Only a strong protest movement by women's organisations, civil rights groups and the people can fight the problem of rape in general and the growing incidence of rape as a political weapon in the hands of the powerful.


The Global Persecution of Women