Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection

By Michael Wessells | Go to book overview

Preface

Civility has always been one of the first casualties of war. Today, a barbarous form of incivility is the widespread exploitation of children as soldiers. Worldwide, large numbers of girls and boys, some 7 years of age or younger, are soldiers in government forces, armed opposition groups, militias, and paramilitary groups. At an age better suited for education, many children carry guns and fight, while others serve as porters, security guards, laborers, decoys, medics, cooks, sex slaves, and spies.

It is time for the world to confront this problem, which has inflicted untold misery on many thousands of children, trampled children’s rights, and made a mockery of peace. Addressing this problem requires a dual emphasis on helping child soldiers transition into civilian life and preventing child recruitment. To accomplish either task, however, we must first understand why children become soldiers and how their war experiences affect them.

Recent advances in the study of child soldiers provide a much more grounded, contextualized understanding of child soldiers than had been available previously. Earlier ideas of a universal child soldier have given way to a more nuanced view of the enormous diversity and fluidity within the category “child soldiers.” Western concepts of childhood have been contested, yielding a richer understanding of how culture and social relations shape children's roles and the various definitions of childhood. Previous tendencies to infantilize children and to regard them as passive are giving way to a view of children as actors who have a strong sense of agency, participate in the construction of political discourses and social identities, and in some cases lead political action. Also, the distorting lenses of gender and culture biases are slowly being corrected. Not long ago the term child soldiers meant “boy soldiers,” but recent research has brought to light the situation of girls and challenged us to construct gender-appropriate reintegration programs. Although

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Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Child Soldiers - From Violence to Protection iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • 1: Child Victims, Young Combatants 1
  • 2: Entry into Armed Groups 31
  • 3: Inside Armed Groups 57
  • 4: Girl Soldiers 85
  • 5: Health and HIV/AIDS 107
  • 6: The Invisible Wounds of War 126
  • 7: Putting Down the Gun 154
  • 8: The Transition to Civilian Life 181
  • 9: Community Reconciliation, Justice, and Protection 208
  • 10: Prevention 232
  • Reference Index 259
  • References 261
  • Index 277
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