According to the World Health Organization, “gender-based inequity is usually exacerbated during situations of extreme violence such as armed conflict.” Worldwide, Human Rights Watch estimates that there are over 300,000 child soldiers, a portion of them girls. Girls have been involved in armed conflict in 33 countries and may play various roles: as cooks, messengers, stealing food, kidnapping other children, for sexual purposes, as human mine sweepers, and carrying arms. The presentation will describe the impact on girls’ sexual health and sexual rights, including enduring the sexual violence of rape and sexual slavery, suffering from sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, infertility, and the stigma of premature or unsanctioned sexual experiences.
Narrative video clips from girls will depict their experiences. Addressing the issues of “volunteering” versus being kidnapped, demobilization and reintegration into their societies, and family reunification are important. The paper is based on academic research and research-in-progress, reports from the United Nations and numerous international organizations, news reports, and the media. The female child soldier is a significant group within child soldiers; the combination of sex and violence they experience leads to posttraumatic stress disorder and complicated grief. The status of girls in armed conflict is not adequately discussed, thus making intervention planning less efficacious.
In conclusion, programs aimed at demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers must be attentive to the experiences of girls in armed conflict, addressing both physical and psychological needs and breaking the taboo on discussing children’s sexual experiences and concerns. Implementing the ten recommendations from the UN report on the “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children” will play a vital role in promoting children’s rights. Finally, the UN Millennium Development Goals are very relevant to female child soldiers, and would directly impact the sexual exploitation of these children.
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