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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 35 / 125

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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

who is a child mother or has been divorced, is subject to stereotyping and prejudice. Basically such girls are described as prostitutes, women who propagate HIV/AIDS, thieves, bringers of bad luck. A girl ex-soldier is mistrusted because she is believed to be dangerous, over-aggressive, a killer, capable of committing any sort of crime. Neighbours of girls who have been raped believe they should be banished from society: it is hard for them to find a marriage partner, owing to the influence of the community on their potential suitors. Girls who have suffered violence in war have no legitimate place amongst their peers, with their families, in their communities, and in the eyes of the administration. Their lives are fragile, and in consequence they are both socially and economically vulnerable. It is the girls who are condemned by society, while the perpetrators are left to get on with their lives unaffected.

Some illustrations from the testimonies

‘I was often taken into the forest by the rebels, carrying their booty. Often, they kept me during the night and took me back early in the morning, at dawn. They raped me. They did that three times.’

‘The others discriminate against me and say that I am bad because I was in the rebellion, and that I shouldn’t speak to them. Me, I never speak to them because I can see by the way they look at me that they don’t like me. The neighbours stop their children from speaking to me and from playing with me. But, since I’m not the

only one to have been there (we were six girl soldiers from our hill are understanding.’

11) some people

‘Lots of girls suffered violence during the war. Apart from rebels, people from the neighbourhood did harm to girls and women. Most often, it was sexual violence and stripping them of possessions. If a girl or a woman tried to denounce the man who raped her, the latter could kill her because it was a war situation.’

2.2 What did girls do in the armed movements?

During the war, some girls were abducted by force, others enrolled voluntarily, and there were also cases of girls who were tricked into enrolling, having been told that they would go to the front and fight for their country, or that they would earn a salary. These latter believed that they would become members of the fighting forces. Girl fighters were trained militarily and went to the front to fight, just like the boys. The girl ex-soldiers we interviewed also told us that it was strictly forbidden for male soldiers to have sexual relations with girl combatants, while girls who had been abducted did suffer this abuse. However, some doubt has been cast on this assertion by other informants, who told us that sexual abuse of girl

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    The ‘hill’ is the basic unit of Burundian local administration, equivalent to a village.

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