Thursday, 21 February 2013

Girl soldiers face tougher battle on return to civilian life

Girl soldiers face tougher battle on return to civilian life

An estimated 40% of all child soldiers are girls, but reintegration programmes are not designed to address their needs...

Girl soldiers are often thought of only as "sex slaves", a term that glosses over the complex roles many play within armed groups and in some national armies. This thinking contributes to their subsequent invisibility in the demobilisation processes. In fact, girls are frequently the most challenging child soldiers to rehabilitate.

The broad categorisation of girl soldiers as victims of sexual abuse obscures that they are often highly valued militarily. While sexual abuse is believed to be widespread, girls' vulnerability may vary, as attitudes towards women differ extensively across militias. In Colombia, the Marxist-leaning groups the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) and National Liberation Army (ELN) treated female soldiers as equal to males, while rightwing paramilitary groups were known to embrace gender stereotypes.  Some have argued that disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programmes are ill-equipped to address the needs of girls. DDR was designed for adult male combatants, and over the years has incorporated female combatants, followed by boy soldiers and then girls...

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