Constructing Soldiers from Boys in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo


Trenholm, Jill, Pia Olsson, Martha Blomqvist, and Beth Maina Ahlberg. 2013. “Constructing Soldiers from Boys in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.” Men and Masculinities 16 (2): 203-27. 

Authors: Jill Trenholm, Pia Olsson, Martha Blomqvist, Beth Maina Ahlberg


This study is part of an ethnography focusing on war rape in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where child soldiers are both victims and perpetrators of violence. Twelve ex-child soldier boys, aged thirteen to eighteen years, from a reintegration facility were interviewed about their soldiering experiences and their perspectives on sexual violence. Transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis. Conceptual frameworks of militarized masculine identity and gender-based violence guided the process. Results revealed the systematic and violent construction of children into soldiers, inculcating a “militarized masculinity”; a rigid set of stereotypical hypermasculinized behaviors promoting dominance by violating, sexually and otherwise, the subordinate “other.” This was achieved through terrorizing/coercing, use of indigenous preparations, substance abuse, and forbidden reflection. This article presents a more contextualized complex view of the violent perpetrator whose behaviors are a manifestation of the modes and mechanisms in which society has constructed/reconstructed gender, ethnicity, and class, and the power dynamics therein.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Gender, Boys, Masculinity/ies, Gender-Based Violence, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Sexual Violence, Rape, Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2013

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