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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 103 / 125

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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

The Perpetrators

A large majority of perpetrators are the fighting groups including law enforcement agents. In addition, peace keeping missions who serve as law enforcement agents in such fragile settings further compromise justice. High incidences of this have been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where UN ‘peace keepers’ were found guilty of sexually violating women they were expected to protect and more recently in Southern Sudan where both UN and Africa Union ‘peace keepers’ have been reported to have sexually violated women. A study by World Vision also shows how young children are particularly targeted in Internally Displaced People’s camps by immediate family members, people in their community and others known to them (World Vision 2007). These violators it seems take advantage of the state of lawlessness prevailing in conflict situations.

The State of the World’s Children 1996 refers to incidences of rape of young girls by young boys. During Mozambique’s conflict, young boys, who themselves had been traumatized by violence, were reported to threaten to kill or starve girls if they resisted the boys’ sexual advances. The gender framework enables us to analyse the actions carried out by women and men and the power relations between the sexes. Instead of just asking what happened to the women we also can ask why the man raped, why and how he got away with it. Further to that it is important to also ask why he is not stigmatized or punished for the crime of rape. The near total impunity granted to rapists during conflict discourages many victims from reporting or attempting to begin legal action against them. Instead the victims are blamed for sexual crimes committed against them. For example the girls are often blamed for coming out in the night to ease themselves or even asked why they move in the night or why they were alone.

Sexual Violence and sexuality

Sexual violence is not a phenomenon unique to conflicts but is deeply rooted in our societies and communities in ‘normal’ times. High incidences of domestic violence, rape and incest are increasingly being reported in newspapers in most African cities. It is however inflamed during conflict and as highlighted above is now being used as a weapon of war. Statistics show that 1 woman is raped every 15 seconds in South Africa, in Kenya it is 1 in every 30 minutes. The youngest rape victim in Zimbabwe is a 3 day old baby girl. Thus sexual violence in war time is deeply rooted in the paradigm of ‘sexuality’ which is responsible for such crimes when there is no armed war. This has a lot to do with power relations and patriarchy and how women’s bodies and sexuality are appropriated by the dominance of males and the subordination of women (MacFadden P 2001). The gender identities attached to males and females informs the acts of these sexual crimes. Men are raped to be

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