Last month, Boko Haram released more than 80 of the Chibok girls kidnapped by the group in 2014. The Nigerian government negotiated the girls’ freedom in exchange for five Boko Haram leaders. The girls need to be reintegrated back into society and will face many challenges. Access to psychological care and support for sexual and mental health issues are vital to ensuring their welfare.
The Chibok girls’ potential treatment ties into a policy change recently instituted by the current United States presidential administration: The Global Gag Rule.
The Global Gag Rule, or Mexico City Policy, has been a political football of U.S. presidents since the 1980s. It stipulates what foreign organizations can use U.S. government aid for. With the Gag Rule currently enacted, organizations cannot use those funds to provide abortions or to counsel patients about the option of abortion. They also cannot use the funds to advocate for legal change in their own countries.
Human Rights Watch reports that the Global Gag Rule will have a damaging effect worldwide. Programs for family planning, nutrition, maternal health, and HIV/AIDS prevention will be affected.
State Department officials say the gag rule ensures that U.S. tax dollars don’t support organizations that perform or promote abortion. But a law has been in place since 1973 that prohibits the use of U.S. foreign aid for abortions.
The current administration also defunded the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in April 2017. According to Reuters, the U.S. is the UNFPA’s fourth-largest contributor, giving $75 million in 2015.
The U.N. program provides lifesaving care to pregnant women in conflict zones. They also provide information about reproductive health care, gender-based violence and contraception.
According to UNFPA estimates, it will cost roughly $300,000 to rehabilitate the 24 Chibok girls who were freed in October 2016. It is expected to cost four times that amount to support and care for the newest group of freed girls.
If more Chibok girls are released from Boko Haram without necessary support, their psychological and physical needs could be at risk. The Global Gag Rule is a direct example of how political policies cause a ripple effect worldwide. For the sake of girls all over the world, the Global Gag Rule needs to stop being a political football.
Efforts are currently underway by a few lawmakers in Congress to draft legislation to permanently shelve the Global Gag Rule. Called the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act (HER), the law is a long shot, but I remain hopeful it will one day be signed into law.
Girl Museum Inc.