International

IS uses contraceptives to maintain sexual slavery

A camp for Yazidi refugees, some of whom were about to leave for resettlement in Germany, near Dohuk, Iraq. in January this year.   | Photo Credit: LYNSEY ADDARIO

Locked inside a room where the only furniture was a bed, the 16-year-old learned to fear the sunset, because nightfall started the countdown to her next rape.

During the year she was held by the Islamic State (IS), she spent her days dreading the smell of the IS fighter’s breath, the disgusting sounds he made and the pain he inflicted on her body. More than anything, she was tormented by the thought she might become pregnant with her rapist’s child.

It was the one thing she need not have worried about.

Soon after buying her, the fighter brought the teenage girl a round box containing four strips of pills, one of them coloured red.

“Every day, I had to swallow one in front of him. He gave me one box per month. When I ran out, he replaced it. When I was sold from one man to another, the box of pills came with me,” explained the girl, who learned only months later that she was being given birth control.

Yazidi victims

It is a modern solution to a medieval injunction: According to an obscure ruling in Islamic law cited by the Islamic State (IS), a man must ensure that the woman he enslaves is free of child before having intercourse with her.

Islamic State leaders have made sexual slavery integral to the group’s operations, preying on the women and girls the group captured from the Yazidi religious minority almost two years ago.

To keep the sex trade running, the fighters have aggressively pushed birth control on their victims so they can continue the abuse unabated while the women are passed among them.

More than three dozen Yazidi women who recently escaped the Islamic State and who agreed to be interviewed for this article described the numerous methods the fighters used to avoid pregnancy, including oral and injectable contraception, and sometimes both. In at least one case, a woman was forced to have an abortion in order to make her available for sex, and others were pressured to do so.

Some described how they knew they were about to be sold when they were driven to a hospital to be tested for pregnancy. They awaited their results with apprehension: A positive test would mean they were carrying their abuser’s child; a negative result would allow Islamic State fighters to continue raping them. The methodical use of birth control during at least some of the women’s captivity explains what doctors caring for recent escapees observed: Of the more than 700 rape victims from the Yazidi ethnic group who have sought treatment so far at a United Nations-backed clinic in northern Iraq, just 5 percent became pregnant during their enslavement, according to Dr. Nagham Nawzat, the gynaecologist carrying out the examinations.

Thousands of women and girls from the Yazidi minority remain captives of the Islamic State, after the jihadis overran their ancestral homeland on Mount Sinjar on Aug. 3, 2014. In the months since then, hundreds have managed to escape. — New York Times News Service

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 5:25:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/is-uses-contraceptives-to-maintain-sexual-slavery/article8349720.ece

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