A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
‘When we came back from the war, the local dignitaries took the initiative to explain to people that we were not dangerous because we had been through re-education. But in spite of these explanations, people were still sceptical.’
‘Then, the others came to where I was in the room and they raped me. There were three of them. I kept quiet about it. You see in those days, when such things happened to a girl, she would keep it a secret right at the bottom of her heart, so that no-one would know what really happened. If you shared your sorrows with someone who you considered a friend, she would start laughing and making fun of you so that when you passed by everyone would point a finger at you, saying ‘She was taken by the rebels’ or ‘She was raped by so-and-so’. That’s why I said nothing to anyone. It stays inside me like a personal secret.’
2.6 Consequences for the respondents
For the girls who suffer it, the consequences of sexual violence are many. First of all, these girls are discriminated against by everyone, starting with their own families. Living in extreme poverty, they struggle to fulfil the most basic functions such as obtaining food and medical care for themselves and their children. Deprived of resources, they have little choice but to wander and beg in order to survive.
Many of those who are in school when they are raped leave school immediately and never return.
Child mothers are often abandoned by the child’s father, since for the father,
acknowledging the child may have a variety of undesired consequences.
father is unmarried, he may be forced into marrying the girl, while for a married man the consequence may be trouble within his marriage. If the girl seeks a solution through the courts and he has already acknowledged the child, he will be obliged to pay maintenance, and if the case is one involving rape he is likely to face severe sanctions. For these reasons, a father may officially deny that the child is his, but later on seek to get the child back, sometimes by abducting the child and hiding it somewhere far from its family. The ‘Support to girls affected by war’ project is supporting a number of girls whose children have been taken from them in this way. As the interview with Spes (below) graphically illustrates, there may be enormous emotional consequences for the child’s mother.
Young girls who have been raped are vulnerable to a variety of health problems including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and deficiency-related illnesses.