Washington, DC- U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chris Coons (D-DE) today introduced a resolution condemning the April 14 abduction of as many as 234 Nigerian school girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram. While local officials have reported that several students were able to escape, nearly 200 of the abducted girls, most of them between 16 and 18 years old, remain missing, and news reports from the region indicate that the missing girls are possibly being sold as brides to Islamic militants for the equivalent of $12 each.
"This terrible act of brutality by Boko Haram in Nigeria must be condemned in the most forceful of terms. The targeting of civilians, including children, in places of refuge such as schools, churches and mosques, is abhorrent and unconscionable. We and our international partners must support Nigeria to hold the guilty parties accountable, prevent future tragedies from occurring, and address the underlying development challenges facing Nigeria," said Senator Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"Attacking and abducting young women simply for going to school is despicable and must never be tolerated," Senator Boxer said. "The international community must make clear that all children deserve the chance to pursue an education without fear and that those responsible for these heinous crimes will be held accountable."Senator Boxer chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues.
"I am extremely concerned by the kidnapping of 234 female students, 191 of whom are still missing, in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram's abduction of these young women reminds us of the difficult obstacles women and girls face around the world every day in attaining the basic freedoms enjoyed by American women. This Senate resolution signifies the United States Congress's support for Nigerian people, especially the parents and families of these girls and others affected by Boko Haram's violence, and condemns the terrorist organization's vicious attacks on civilian targets," Senator Landrieu said. "The resolution also recognizes that the empowerment of women and girls is inextricably linked to the potential of countries to generate economic growth, sustainable democracy and inclusive security. When women and men have equal access to educational resources, economies flourish, families strengthen and societies move forward."
"The United States must continue to support initiatives increasing girls' and young women's ability to exercise their human rights," said Senator Inhofe. "Our bipartisan resolution insists Nigeria strengthens their efforts to protect their children's ability to obtain an education and hold Boko Haram accountable for their violent, extremist actions. I deplore the abduction of the 234 young female students from the Government Girls Secondary School in northeastern Nigeria, and am committed to working with my colleagues to end discrimination and violence against women in Nigeria and around the world."
"This heinous crime is an abomination and an affront to the civilized world," Senator Durbin said. "I am additionally horrified to learn of reports that, for mere act of seeking an education, the kidnapped girls are being sold into child marriage, a despicable practice that may rob them of their dignity, health, and freedom. We and our African allies should do what we can to help the Nigerian government rescue these innocent girls from the barbaric Boko Haram and return them swiftly to their families."
"The horrific kidnapping of more than 200 young women in Nigeria is appalling, and representative of a dangerous rise in religious extremism in the region," Senator Coons said. "As if this unconscionable event was not enough, it is gut-wrenching that Boko Haram sold many of these young women into marriages. The U.S. and the international community must work with the Nigerian government to ensure these girls are reunited with their families and deepen efforts to combat the growing threat posed by Boko Haram." Senator Coons chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.
On the night of April 14, 2014, armed militants abducted as many as 234 female students from the Government Girls Secondary School located in the northeastern province of Borno, Nigeria. The abduction is thought to have been carried out by Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group that has targeted schools, mosques, churches, villages and agricultural centers in a campaign to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. According to the Brookings Institution, Boko Haram burned down or destroyed 50 schools and killed approximately 30 teachers in Nigeria last year alone.
The resolution urges the U.S. to assist in efforts to rescue the students. It also encourages the Nigerian government to "strengthen efforts to protect the ability of children to obtain an education and to hold those who conduct such violent attacks accountable."
The full text of the resolution follows:
Condemning the abduction of female students by armed militants from the Government Girls Secondary School in the northeastern province of Borno in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Whereas, on the night of April 14, 2014, as many as 234 female students, most of them between 16 and 18 years old, were abducted by armed militants from the Government Girls Secondary School, a boarding school located in the northeastern province of Borno in the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
Whereas the militants burned down several buildings before opening fire on soldiers and police who were guarding the school and forcing the students into trucks;
Whereas, according to local officials in Borno state, about 43 students were able to flee their captors, and the rest remain missing;
Whereas all public secondary schools in Borno state were closed in March 2014 because of increasing attacks in the past year that have killed hundreds of students, but the young women at the Government Girls Secondary School were recalled to take their final exams;
Whereas the group popularly known as "Boko Haram", which loosely translates from the Hausa language to "Western education is sin", is known to oppose the education of girls, has kidnapped girls in the past to use as cooks and sex slaves, and is thought to be responsible for the April 14th kidnapping in Borno state;
Whereas there are reports that the abducted girls have been sold as brides to Islamist militants for the equivalent of $12 each;
Whereas Boko Haram has targeted schools, mosques, churches, villages, and agricultural centers, as well as government facilities, in an armed campaign to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, prompting the president of Nigeria to declare a state of emergency in three of the country's northeastern states in May 2013;
Whereas, according to the Brookings Institution, Boko Haram burned down or destroyed 50 schools and killed approximately 30 teachers in Nigeria in 2013, leaving tens of thousands of children unable to attend school;
Whereas, on April 14, 2014, hours before the kidnapping in Borno state, Boko Haram bombed a bus station in Abuja, Nigeria, killing at least 75 people and wounding over 100, making it the deadliest attack ever in Nigeria's capital;
Whereas Amnesty International estimates that more than 1,500 people have been killed in attacks by Boko Haram or reprisals by Nigerian security forces this year alone, and the Council on Foreign Relations estimates that almost 4,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram attacks since 2011;
Whereas the Department of State designated Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in November 2013, recognizing the threat posed by the group's large-scale and indiscriminate attacks against women and children;
Whereas, according to the United Nations, girls' education is a major challenge in Nigeria;
Whereas, according to the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), some 4,700,000 children of primary school age are still not in school in Nigeria, with attendance rates lowest in the north;
Whereas a study conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) found that school children in Nigeria, particularly those in the northern provinces, are at a disadvantage in their education, with 37 percent of primary-age girls in the rural northeast not attending school, and 30 percent of boys not attending school;
Whereas, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index, Nigeria is ranked 106 out of 136 countries based on women's economic participation, educational attainment, and political empowerment;
Whereas, according to the United Nations, women held only 6.7 percent of the seats in Nigeria's parliament in 2013;
Whereas the advancement of women around the world is a foreign policy priority for the United States;
Whereas, according to the United States Agency for International Development, "Broader, more equitable access to education encourages political participation, enhances governance, strengthens civil society, and promotes transparency and accountability.";
Whereas a 100-country study by the World Bank shows that increasing the share of women with a secondary education by 1 percent boosts annual per capita income growth by 0.3 percentage points;
Whereas, according to UNICEF, adolescent girls that attend school are less likely to be married as children, "are less vulnerable to disease including HIV and AIDS, and acquire information and skills that lead to increased earning power. Evidence shows that the return to a year of secondary education for girls correlates to a 25 percent increase in wages later in life.";
Whereas, according to the World Bank, "The benefits of women's education go beyond higher productivity for 50 percent of the population. More educated women also tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn more income,... and provide better health care and education to their children, all of which eventually improve the well-being of all individuals and lift households out of poverty. These benefits also transmit across generations, as well as to their communities at large."; and
Whereas women and girls must be allowed to go to school without fear of violence and unjust treatment so that they can take their rightful place as equal citizens of and contributors to the world: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate-
(1) expresses its strong support for the people of Nigeria, especially the parents and families of the girls abducted by Boko Haram in Borno state, and calls for the immediate, safe return of the girls;
(2) condemns Boko Haram for its violent attacks on civilian targets, including schools, mosques, churches, villages, and agricultural centers in Nigeria;
(3) encourages the Government of Nigeria to strengthen efforts to protect the ability of children to obtain an education and to hold those who conduct such violent attacks accountable;
(4) encourages efforts by the United States Government to support the capacity of the Government of Nigeria to provide security for schools and to hold terrorist organizations, such as Boko Haram, accountable;
(5) urges timely civilian assistance from the United States and allied African nations in rescuing and reintegrating the abducted girls;
(6) recognizes that every individual, regardless of gender, should have the opportunity to pursue an education without fear of discrimination;
(7) reaffirms its commitment to ending discrimination and violence against women and girls, to ensuring the safety and welfare of women and girls, and to pursuing policies that guarantee the basic human rights of women and girls worldwide;
(8) recognizes that the empowerment of women is inextricably linked to the potential of countries to generate economic growth, sustainable democracy, and inclusive security; and
(9) encourages the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Department of Defense to continue their support for initiatives that positively impact the ability of women and girls to fully access their human rights.