A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
1. Rape and Forced Prostitution
Rape is a violation that is found both in conflict and non-conflict situations. Unlike rape, incidents of forced prostitution are less likely to occur outside of armed conflict situations than in times of war. Perhaps, this state of affairs may be explained by the breakdown of law and order that is found in many war situations. As a result, this gap is likely to create a suitable environment for the forceful engagement of young people in prostitution. Even so, incidents of rape and forced prostitution remain key challenges that need to be addressed in armed conflict situations.
In an effort to address these violations both international human rights and international humanitarian laws seek to prohibit the rape and forced prostitution of children during armed conflict and in peace time. Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires States to ‘take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect children from all forms’ of violence. Further, under Article 34 of this treaty, States have undertaken to protect
children ‘from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse are required to take measures to prevent:
’. In particular, they
(a) The inducement or coercion of a child to engage activity; (b) The exploitative use of children in prostitution o
in any unlawful sexual
r other unlawful sexual
Similarly, the law on armed conflict prohibits sexual exploitation and abuse of children. Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention accords children protection from ‘threats’ or ‘acts of violence’. It also prohibits rape and forced prostitution. A similar prohibition is contained in article 4(2) and 76 of the 1977 Protocols I and II respectively.
In a nutshell, the law in the books provides adequate protection to young people at all times. But the situation on the ground is somewhat different. As the findings of this research demonstrate, children have been exposed to the violations that international laws seek to protect. Empirical data shows that many have been sexually violated. The following narratives affirm this position:
“I was often taken into the forest by rebels, carrying their booty. Often, they kept me during the night and took me back … at dawn. They raped me. They did that three times”(Gakobwa Marie, Burundi Case Study)
“When the war broke out I was in 6th primary. We had to live in a displaced person’s camp. Where we stayed, there were lots of soldiers. At night, when we went outside, to the toilets for example, the soldiers would be waiting to rape us”