Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement

SIGN UP FOR MS. DIGEST, JOBS, NEWS AND ALERTS

FEMINIST WIRE NEWSBRIEFS

ABOUT
SEE CURRENT ISSUE
SHOP MS. STORE
MS. IN THE CLASSROOM
FEMINIST DAILY WIRE
FEMINIST RESOURCES
PRESS
JOBS AT MS.
READ BACK ISSUES
CONTACT
RSS (XML)
 
feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

February-16-99

Child Soldiers, Sex Slaves in Sierra Leone

In her article published in the New York Times this Sunday, journalist Jan Goodwin wrote of the children who are being abducted by Government and opposition forces for work as soldiers and sex slaves in Sierra Leone's civil war.

Girls and boys as young as 7 or 8 years old make up 40-50% of the opposition's forces, and about 25% of the Government's Civil Defense Forces. Young children are thought to make excellent soldiers because they are dependent, eager to please, and make few demands. In fact, many fear them more than adult soldiers. A man from Freetown commented, "These kids are very scary, more erratic and more violent than most fighters. They obey any order, no matter how brutal."

Goodwin profiled the horrific experiences of three children in her article. The first unnamed boy, referred to as M.G., was abduction by anti-government Revolutionary United Front and forced at gunpoint to shoot members of his village at the tender age of 10. Now 13, M.G. described what happened on that fateful day. "I fired, and kept firing. I watched them fall. Their limbs were twitching. It took them a long time to die--about three minutes. Then I vomited. It was the first time I killed."

M.G. now says that he has no idea how many people he has murdered and has lost sight in his right eye in an especially brutal attack. He misses his family and his dog, but cannot return to his village after what he has done. The last time he attempted to return, angry villagers tried to kill him for revenge.

Young girls in Sierra Leone face an equally cruel fate. A thirteen-year-old girl referred to as I. told the story of how she and six other girls were abducted, brutally raped, and forced to watch while rebels mutilated and murdered three girls who had dared to resist their attacks. The surviving girls were later bound by the ankles, side by side, and gang-raped for days on end. I. was raped so many times and so brutally that she couldn't walk for two weeks afterward.

Girls are also forced to block enemy bullets with their bodies, to transport equipment, to steal and to cook. A few serve as soldiers, along with their male peers. I's friend M. was murdered by Government forces after she was impregnated through rape by the opposition. "They slit open her stomach. I will never forget her cries," said I.

Like the boys, girls cannot return to their villages after fighting ceases. Girls who are not virgins are rejected by their families and often forced into prostitution. Although their is a ritual that is thought to "purify" boys and girls and restore their honor, those rituals are so expensive that most cannot afford them.

Although President Ahmad Tajan Kabban has ordered his Government army to stop using child soldier, his order has not been enforced, despite pressure from the international community. Deputy Minister of Defense Hinga Norman said that huge numbers of orphaned children and widespread poverty caused by years of civil war will make change difficult. "Kids need a place to eat and sleep. Unless the country can provide that, why move them?"

Media Resources: New York Times - February 14, 1999


© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.

 

 

Send to a Friend
Their
Your
Comments
(optional)


More Feminist News

10/23/2014 All of Tennessee's Major Newspapers Have Urged Voters to Reject Anti-Abortion Amendment 1 - All four of Tennessee's major papers have spoken out to oppose Amendment 1, a dangerous anti-abortion measure that will be decided by voters this fall. . . .
 
10/23/2014 Instead of Returning Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls Boko Haram Reportedly Abducted More Women and Girls - Despite Nigerian military officials announcement last week that they had negotiated with militant group Boko Haram for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped in April, it appears the girls have not be brought home - and residents say more women and girls have been kidnapped since. Last week, in a deal brokered in neighboring country Chad, a ceasefire agreement was supposedly made between Boko Haram and Nigerian military officials. . . .
 
10/23/2014 Ferguson October Continues With National Day of Action Against Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration - Activists organized actions nationwide yesterday to protest police brutality in cities across the country as part of ongoing Ferguson October events, while outrage grows in Missouri over the the grand jury proceeding on whether Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson should face criminal charges in the shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. As part of the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration, on-the-ground organizers in Ferguson, Missouri and St. . . .