NORTH KOREA / NIGERIA / SOUTHERN AFRICA – Women’s prisons: rape and forced abortion allegations in North Korea and Nigeria; HIV and SRH-related services in Southern Africa

A report from North Korea has found that extrajudicial executions, rape, forced abortions, jail without trial, torture, starvation rations and other forms of violence are rife. These are just some of the abuses said to be commonplace in North Korean prisons and other detention facilities, according to the testimony of hundreds of former detainees, survivors, witnesses and perpetrators of abuse who have fled the country, along with official documents, satellite images, architectural analysis and digital modeling of penal facilities. All of them form the basis of a new report released by an NGO called Korea Future. The CNN summary of the report says there were often rapes of women prisoners but does not give further details, and it provides no information about the forced abortions either.

Earlier this year, the Campaign newsletter carried a still uncorroborated report by Reuters from Nigeria about forced abortions among women prisoners.

Even a superficial scroll through the internet indicates that rape of women prisoners is common in many countries. Access to safe abortion is a crucial issue for women prisoners, but it appears to have received far less (research) attention than it deserves, if any at all. Prisons in most countries are not known for providing decent services, or any services at all, particularly in women’s prisons, and particularly when the inmates are poor, rural, under-educated, and/or from ethnic minorities. An outstanding exception is an in-depth report on HIV and SRH-related issues in women’s prisons in Southern Africa, yet in several hundred pages focusing on these matters in prisons, neither safe nor unsafe abortion are mentioned more than a few times, and then only in passing.

SOURCES: North Korea: CNN, by Yoonjung Seo, Andrew Raine, Gawon Bae, 24 March 2023;
ICWRSA Newsletter, National Human Rights Commission to probe abortion allegations against Nigerian military, 9 February 2023 ; Southern Africa: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Women Prisoners – A Study Guide for Training in Southern African Countries, by United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime, October 2019, 292pp.