A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
of the youth
The number of girls ACORD has been able to assist is small in comparison with the large number of victims needing assistance. In addition to the generalised violence which was common during the war, and experienced by the whole population, for many girls and women there was the additional perpetration of sexual violence, which in the case of girls took a number of different forms. Furthermore, girls suffered from stigmatisation and discrimination with almost universal indifference from those around them, as a result of the prevailing view that they themselves bore responsibility for the indignities they had been forced to suffer.
In the light of the many provisions in international law protecting women, children and girls and promoting their participation in peace-building (see chapter 1) ACORD decided to gather evidence of the privations undergone by girls during and after conflict, and to lobby for special measures to be put in place in all conflict- affected countries for their protection and for the rehabilitation of those who had survived violence. While protection is of course necessary for all people in situations of conflict, evidence suggests that because of the prejudices and sexual beliefs surrounding young girls, they are more of a target than adult women9. This can be attributed to beliefs that having sexual relations with children offers a cure for AIDS and enables men to regain their youth. Many believe that men experience more pleasure with younger than older women and that sex with young girls, since they are unlikely to have become HIV positive, is less risky. And, young girls are more vulnerable in many ways.
It is in this context that the present study on violence against girls was carried out. Its aim was to raise awareness about the violence perpetrated against girls in periods of war. The results of the study underscored the need to promote protection measures for girls (as distinct from adult women), as well as the need to develop support strategies and projects for girls who have suffered sexual violence which take into account the specific conditions in which they now find themselves.
Seventeen girls were interviewed for the study. Three of these were ex-combatants whom the research team had made contact with through a UNICEF ex-child soldiers project. Fourteen were participants in the ACORD programme described above, and fell into several (overlapping) categories: girls living in displaced camps, girls who had been kidnapped during the war, those who had returned home from exile in a neighbouring country, and those who had been raped. The three ex-child soldiers claimed not to have been raped, because it was forbidden for cadres in the militias to have sexual relations with the child soldiers. Only one of these had children, and she had become pregnant after the war. Apart from these three, all the other 14 had children. One had married at the age of 17 and had later been abandoned by
For example, 0% of rape victims seen at MSF Holland’s sexual violence clinic in Bujumbura are under 8 years of age.