Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection

By Michael Wessells | Go to book overview

2
Entry into Armed Groups

Diverse narratives surround the question why children become soldiers. One narrative, attractive in its simplicity, emphasizes forced recruitment, portraying child soldiers as victims of abduction. This narrative is comforting in its depiction of wicked people as the cause of children becoming soldiers. A Sri Lankan girl recounted how she had been taken by the LTTE at age 16:

My parents refused to give me to the LTTE so about fifteen of them
came to my house—it was both men and women, in uniforms, with
rifles, and guns in holsters … 1 was fast asleep when they came to get
me at one in the morning … These people dragged me out of the
house. My father shouted at them, saying, “What is going on?” but
some of the LTTE soldiers took my father away towards the woods and
beat him … They also pushed my mother onto the ground when she
tried to stop them. (HRW 2004b, 2)

As her testimony illustrates, because children or their families can meet with violence if they resist, children faced with such circumstances have no choice but to go with the armed group.

A competing narrative emphasizes war as a source of opportunities for children, who willingly join armed groups to obtain things—protection, a sense of family, education and training, power, money, or a sense of purpose, among others—denied to them in civilian life. Exploding the myth of children as innocents, this narrative depicts children as actors who have a strong sense of agency and can exercise choice. By emphasiz-

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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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