"Vicious circle" for Abyan on Nauru
UN human rights authorities say a pregnant Somali refugee allegedly raped on Nauru is in a fragile mental and physical state, and have called for action.
UN human rights authorities say a pregnant Somali refugee allegedly raped on Nauru is in a fragile mental and physical state.
And they say the woman, who carries the pseudonym Abyan, is too scared and traumatised to report her rape to the Nauru police.
The Office of the the High Commissioner for Human Rights is in regular contact with Abyan and has called on Australia and Nauru to provide her with adequate care.
She was earlier sent to Australia for an abortion but was flown back to Nauru after Australia said she decided not to go ahead with the termination.
A spokesperson for the UN human rights agency Rupert Colville told Sally Round Abyan, like other women who've been assaulted on Nauru, is in a vicious circle.
RUPERT COLVILLE: We have been in contact with her quite frequently over recent weeks including in the last couple of days. She's in a very kind of fragile state, sort of both mentally and also physical condition. And she's I would say deeply traumatised by her experiences not of just the rape herself which was back in July but also what's happened since.
SALLY ROUND: The Nauru police say she won't make a complaint to them. Is that the case?
RC: It is the case. She is understandably afraid of reprisal. I mean Nauru is a tiny place. The population is about 9500 people. There are now something like 1100 or so recognised refugees and asylum seekers. So 11 percent of the population are people like Abyan. But when you've been raped, I mean there is no escaping that person who raped you. They are just around the corner in such a small place. So she feels very vulnerable, as do other women who have been sexually abused in Nauru.
SR: What are her circumstances like at the camp? Does she feel safe there?
RC: Again in such a small case I don't think people necessarily feel safe anywhere, particularly when they don't see the police taking any actions to apprehend the attackers. That's a particular problem and one we are trying to highlight. Because it's a bit of a pattern. It's not simply Abyan, there are many other cases including two other very serious recent ones involving another Somali woman and also an Iranian woman. In no case has there been any kind of arrest or really serious dealing with the issues. So you know, if one can put ourselves in these women's shoes, whether you are in the camp or outside it. Maybe even outside it you maybe even feel more vulnerable. If the police is not acting and your attacker is there, and your attacker knows you have talked about the case, it's in the news. So it is a really unhappy situation. And then of course in Abyan's case, she's pregnant, allegedly from the rape. So that's an additional trauma. So she went to Australia, she was hoping to receive counselling and probably have the pregnancy terminated and that didn't happen. She still wants that counselling and probably to have the pregnancy terminated.
SR: Is she getting any counselling at all?
RC: Well on Nauru itself, it's just not really available and also there is the issue of the law in Nauru - abortion is actually illegal in Nauru except in certain circumstances that are life saving. So there is no clause in the law dealing with the termination of pregnancy resulting from rape, so it's just not an option in Nauru.
SR: As far as the police action is concerned on Nauru, if she won't cooperate, if she doesn't make a complaint what do you think they should be doing acting without her cooperation there?
RC: Well I think this is part of the wider problem. I mean I think because when other complaints have been made, nothing happens. Then the women feel less and less likely to speak out because they fear reprisals and they see there is no chance of justice being done. So you're in a kind of vicious circle there. And women like her are unlikely to take the kind of action that police need them to take to find the attacker.
SR: Have you been in touch with the police at all?
RC: We have in the past but I think by highlighting the issue today we will hope that maybe the Nauru authorities will look at this with closer attention from now onwards. Because it seems to be a growing problem, the number of sexual assault and rape allegations directed at refugee and asylum seeking women in Nauru. Some of the women who have been attacked or raped have been threatened by local men and they've also been stigmatised, everyone knows who they are.
SR: Has this happened to her, to Abyan?
RC: Allegedly it has happened to her, yes. At least two of the three women we mentioned have reported directly to us that they have been either humiliated or threatened in one case by the police and in the other case at least twice by local men. And a third woman, an Iranian woman who did get to Australia and is still there, filed a complaint that she had been bullied by police and accused by them of discrediting the image of Nauru. It's such a small place. Just put yourself in the shoes of a woman who has been raped by a local man, and there doesn't seem to be any real process going on by the law and order system to arrest that man. Just imagine what it is like living with that every day in such a small place when your attacker is literally just around the corner.
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