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Child Soldiers

Demobilisation of Female Ex-Combatants in Colombia


Schwitalla, Gunhild, and Luisa Maria Dietrich. 2007. “Demobilisation of Female Ex-Combatants in Colombia.” Forced Migration Review 27: 58–9.

Authors: Gunhild Schwitalla, Luisa Maria Dietrich


"Among the millions of Colombian IDPs one group is particularly invisible – women and girls associated with illegal armed groups. The current demobilisation process does not adequately address the consequences of the sexual violence they have suffered before, during and after conflict" (Schwitalla and Dietrich 2007, 58).

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Female Combatants, DDR, Displacement & Migration, IDPs, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender-Based Violence, Conflict, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Paramilitaries, Non-state Armed Groups, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2007

Locating “Queer” in Contemporary Writing of Love and War in Nigeria


Munro, Brenna. 2016. “Locating ‘Queer’ in Contemporary Writing of Love and War in Nigeria.” Research in African Literatures 47 (2): 121–38.

Author: Brenna Munro


The child soldier novel is not usually read in terms of sexuality; however, sexual trauma, sex between men and boys, and the production of damaged masculinities are central to representations of the boy soldier in contem- porary writing about war from Nigeria, including Chris Abani’s Song for Night (2007), Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation (2005), and Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (2006). The queer gures of the perverse adult military man and the violated and violating boy soldier emerge in complex relation to contemporary representations of the Nigerian gay man—and all of these texts negotiate the politics of sex and race across multiple reading publics. Jude Dibia’s gay character Adrian in Walking with Shadows (2005) asserts legibility and respectability in sharp contrast to the queer subjectivi- ties of war writing, for example, yet all of these texts dramatize negotiations with stigma as it circulates across representations of sexuality.


Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Gender, Men, Boys, LGBTQ, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-state Armed Groups, Race, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, Rape, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, SV against men, Terrorism Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Nigeria

Year: 2016

Moderators of Treatment Effectiveness for War-Affected Youth With Depression in Northern Uganda


Betancourt, Theresa S., Elizabeth A. Newnham, Robert T. Brennan, Helen Verdeli, Ivelina Borisova, Richard Neugebauer, Judith Bass, and Paul Bolton. 2012. “Moderators of Treatment Effectiveness for War-Affected Youth With Depression in Northern Uganda.” Journal of Adolescent Health 51 (6): 544–50. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.02.010.

Authors: Theresa S. Betancourt, Elizabeth A. Newnham, Robert T. Brennan, Helen Verdeli, Ivelina Borisova, Richard Neugebauer, Judith Bass, Paul Bolton


Purpose: As we build the evidence base of interventions for depression among war-affected youth, it is critical to understand factors moderating treatment outcomes. The current study investigated how gender and history of abduction by Lord’s Resistance Army rebels moderated treatment outcomes for war-affected youth.

Methods: The study—a three-armed, randomized, controlled trial—was conducted with internally displaced war-affected adolescents in northern Uganda. Participants with significant depression symptoms (N 304; 57% female; 14 –17 years of age) were randomly assigned to an interpersonal psychotherapy group (IPT-G), a creative play/recreation group, or a wait-list control condition. Secondary analyses were conducted on data from this randomized controlled trial.

Results: A history of abduction by Lord’s Resistance Army rebels was reported by 42% of the sample. Gender and abduction history interacted to moderate the effectiveness of IPT-G for the treatment of depression. In the IPT-G intervention arm, treatment effectiveness was greatest among female subjects without an abduction history, with effect size 1.06. IPT-G was effective for the treatment of depression for both male and female subjects with a history of abduction (effect size .92 and .50, respectively). Male subjects with no abduction history in IPT-G showed no significant improvement compared with those in the control conditions.

Conclusions: Abduction history and gender are potentially important moderators of treatment effects, suggesting that these factors need to be considered when providing interventions for war-affected youth. IPT-G may be an effective intervention for female subjects without an abduction history, as well as for both male and female former child soldiers, but less so for male subjects without an abduction history. 


Keywords: war, depression, Treatment moderators, Interpersonal therapy, child soldiers

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Gender, Health, Mental Health Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Uganda

Year: 2012

Past Horrors, Present Struggles: The Role of Stigma in the Association between War Experiences and Psychosocial Adjustment among Former Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone


Betancourt, Theresa S., Jessica Agnew-Blais, Stephen E. Gilman, David R. Williams, and B. Heidi Ellis. 2010. “Past Horrors, Present Struggles: The Role of Stigma in the Association between War Experiences and Psychosocial Adjustment among Former Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone.” Social Science & Medicine 70 (1): 17–26. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.09.038.

Authors: Theresa S. Betancourt, Jessica Agnew-Blais, Stephen E. Gilman, David R. Williams, B. Heidi Ellis


Upon returning to their communities, children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups–commonly referred to as child soldiers–often confront significant community stigma. Much research on the reintegration and rehabilitation of child soldiers has focused on exposure to past war-related violence and mental health outcomes, yet no empirical work has yet examined the role that post-conflict stigma plays in shaping long-term psychosocial adjustment. Two waves of data are used in this paper from the first prospective study of male and female former child soldiers in Sierra Leone. We examined the role of stigma (manifest in discrimination as well as lower levels of community and family acceptance) in the relationship between war-related experiences and psychosocial adjustment (depression, anxiety, hostility and adaptive behaviors). Former child soldiers differ from one another with regard to their post-war experiences, and these differences profoundly shape their psychosocial adjustment over time. Consistent with social stress theory, we observed that post-conflict factors such as stigma can play an important role in shaping psychosocial adjustment in former child soldiers. We found that discrimination was inversely associated with family and community acceptance. Additionally, higher levels of family acceptance were associated with decreased hostility, while improvements in community acceptance were associated with adaptive attitudes and behaviors. We found that post-conflict experi- ences of discrimination largely explained the relationship between past involvement in wounding/killing others and subsequent increases in hostility. Stigma similarly mediated the relationship between surviving rape and depression. However, surviving rape continued to demonstrate independent effects on increases in anxiety, hostility and adaptive/prosocial behaviors after adjusting for other variables. These findings point to the complexity of psychosocial adjustment and community reintegration in these youth and have a number of programmatic and policy implications. 


Keywords: war, mental health, children, adolescents, child soldiers, trauma, Stigma, Sierra Leone

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Health, Mental Health, Trauma, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Sierra Leone

Year: 2010

Interdependent Preferences, Militarism, and Child Gender


Urbatsch, R. “Interdependent Preferences, Militarism, and Child Gender.” International Studies Quarterly 53, no. 1 (March 1, 2009): 1–21. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2478.2008.01521.x.

Author: R. Urbatsch


Selection effects make it difficult to determine whether concern for other people genuinely affects individuals’ policy preferences. Child gender provides a conveniently exogenous means of exploring the issue, especially in contexts such as military policy where girls and boys face different risks; in many countries male children are disproportionately likely to become soldiers and thus bear the costs of militarism. This creates divergent effects: those in households with girls generally prefer more hawkish foreign policies than do members of households with boys. Data from the 2004 American National Election Study confirm these intuitions, both in general statements of policy preference and in evaluating the net costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Female Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Girls, Boys, Gender Balance, Elections, Households Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2009

Barefoot, Pregnant and in the Kitchen: Am I a Child Soldier Too?


Mouthaan, Solange. 2015. “Barefoot, Pregnant and in the Kitchen: Am I a Child Soldier Too?” Women’s Studies International Forum 51 (July): 91–100. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2014.11.004.


Author: Solange Mouthaan


International law protects children from abuse, including sexual abuse, and from discrimination based on gender. It also prohibits the recruitment and use of child soldiers, but these provisions do not distinguish between boys and girls and their different experiences of armed conflict. International law also protects women from sexual violence or from discrimination based on gender, but does so without age distinction. This does not mean that girls' experiences of armed conflict are entirely precluded. For instance, the Cape Town Principles and Paris Principles single out girls as being specifically used for sexual purposes. However, no concrete international law provision attempts to protect girl child soldiers from sexual violence carried out by a member of the armed group they belong to. Consequently, an explicit link is missing within these different provisions to ensure that the use of child soldiers is understood widely enough to include sexual abuse against girls.

Topics: Combatants, Child Soldiers, Gender, Girls, International Law, Sexual Violence

Year: 2015

Sexual Violence against Child Soldiers


Grey, Rosemary. 2014. “Sexual Violence against Child Soldiers.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 16 (4): 601–21. doi:10.1080/14616742.2014.955964.

Author: Rosemary Grey


In addition to participating in hostilities, girl soldiers are often raped, sexually enslaved and used as “bush wives” by their commanders and fellow soldiers. As this issue of sexual violence against girl soldiers has become increasingly visible in recent cases before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), attempts have been made to prosecute this conduct within the established framework of international criminal law. Most recently, this issue has been addressed in the case of The Prosecutor v Bosco Ntaganda, one of the six cases that have come before the ICC from the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On 9 June 2014, the Pre-Trial Chamber confirmed the charges in the Ntaganda case, and found that the rape and sexual slavery of girl soldiers in Ntaganda's armed group by other members of that group could constitute war crimes under Article 8(2)(e)(vi) of the Rome Statute. This article considers what the Ntaganda decision adds to the jurisprudence on sexual violence against child soldiers, and what it demonstrates about the limits of the law.

Keywords: sexual violence, child soldiers, war crimes, international criminal court, Ntaganda case

Topics: Child Soldiers, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, International Criminal Law, International Organizations, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, War Crimes, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Rape, SV against men Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 2014

Soldier Girl? Not Every Tamil Teen Wants to Be a Tiger


Mitchell, James. 2006. “Soldier Girl? Not Every Tamil Teen Wants to Be a Tiger.” The Humanist 66, no. 5: 16.


Author: James A. Mitchell


The most appropriate stamp might be "The Children's War," for both victim and combatant, because the civil war in Sri Lanka isn't being waged exclusively by adults, nor is it just a boys' club. The Tamil Tigers have two significantly negative reputations: masters of the suicide bomb attack and recruiters of child soldiers. In spite of a growing body of testimony-too many girls have described the training sessions, so their existence can't be denied-the LTTE still denies that their child-recruitment strategy includes weapons training and the solicitation of suicide bombers.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Ethnic/Communal Wars, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Female Combatants, Gender, Girls, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-state Armed Groups, Peace Processes Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Sri Lanka

Year: 2006

From Soldiers to Citizens, or Soldiers to Seamstresses: Reintegrating Girl and Women Soldiers in Sierra Leone


MacKenzie, Megan H. 2007. “From Soldiers to Citizens, or Soldiers to Seamstresses: Reintegrating Girl and Women Soldiers in Sierra Leone.” In . Chicago, IL.


Author: Megan H MacKenzie


Maintaining security in a post-conflict country is often seen to be dependant on peace-building and reconstruction. One can hardly escape terms such as building sustainable peace and post-conflict construction. The disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, and rehabilitation, or DDR-R process for former combatants is being touted as an ideal model for ensuring that post-conflict societies return to peace. These four simple steps to lasting security have been used as a model in war torn countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola. The logic is that these steps aid in restoring countries to more secure, stable times. More specifically, this model streamlines former combatants from soldiers to citizens. Given that the task of this process is to encourage combatants to shed their roles as fighters and to return to their former pre-war roles, it seems intuitive that the way that women and girls go through this process is of particular interest. In fact, despite the ascendancy of this DDR-R model, there has been little critical analysis of the implications of this process for women in war-torn countries. Using Sierra Leone as a case study, I explore how women and girls have been included and treated at each phase of this process. I look specifically at the tendency of organizations and agencies operating DDR-R programs to promote a return of women and girls to their pre-war roles and the tension that women and girls feel between the power they gained as combatants and the social pressure to reintegrate. I also examine the implications, for women and girls, of international and national organizations commitment to equating security with the return to pre-war society rather than rethinking relations of power. I include testimonies from 50 former girl soldiers who talk about their roles during the conflict and their hopes for themselves today.

Keywords: women, conflict, development, security, post-conflict, reintegration

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, "New Wars", Combatants, Child Soldiers, Female Combatants, DDR, Gender, Women, Girls, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Post-Conflict, Security, Human Security Regions: Africa Countries: Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone

Year: 2007

¿Por Qué Se Vinculan Las Niñas a Los Grupos Guerrilleros Y Paramilitares En Colombia?


Moreno Martín, Florentino, Jaime Alberto Carmona Parra, and Felipe Tobón Hoyos. 2010. “¿Por Qué Se Vinculan Las Niñas a Los Grupos Guerrilleros Y Paramilitares En Colombia?” Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología 42 (3): 453–67.

Authors: Florentino Moreno Martín, Jaime Alberto Carmona Parra, Felipe Tobón Hoyos



Este trabajo realiza una comparación entre las explicaciones que los investigadores del fenómeno de los niños soldado en Colombia dan de los motivos por los cuales los menores ingresaron a los grupos armados ilegales, con los testimonios de las 21 niñas desmovilizadas en Antioquia durante 2004. Se hizo un análisis de contenido de las investigaciones empíricas y de las sucesivas entrevistas en profundidad en las que participaron las niñas. Existe coincidencia entre niñas e investigadores en la relativa importancia atribuida al maltrato familiar y a la casi nula motivación ideológica, pero se dan diferencias significativas en el mayor peso atribuido por los investigadores a determinismos objetivos como la pobreza, y en la gran importancia atribuida por las menores a elementos lúdicos como el afán de aventura, la diversión y los criterios estéticos.
This study seeks to compare the explanations that the researchers of the phenomenon of child soldiers in Colombia give about the motives for which the minors entered the illegal armed groups with the testimonies of 21 demobilized young girls in Antioquia during 2004. An analysis of content was performed of the empiric research and the successive in-depth interviews in which these girls participated. Testimonies between the girls and researchers coincide in the relative importance attributed to family abuse and the almost null ideological motivation, but there are significant differences with respect to the greater weight attributed by the researchers to poverty, and at the same time the desire of minors to have access to leisure activities like the rush for adventure, entertainment, and aesthetic criteria. 

Keywords: infancia, guerrilla, guerra, paramilitarismo, motivación, children, war, guerrilla war, paramilitary, motivation

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Civil Society, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Gender, Girls, Boys, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-state Armed Groups, Political Participation, Violence Regions: Americas, Central America, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2010


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