girl soldiers

girl soldiers - ‘O THER I NHUMANE A CTS ’ F ORCED M...

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Unformatted text preview: ‘O THER I NHUMANE A CTS ’: F ORCED M ARRIAGE , G IRL S OLDIERS AND THE S PECIAL C OURT FOR S IERRA L EONE A UGUSTINE S. J. P ARK The Australian National University, Australia A BSTRACT The decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone gained international notoriety for the wide- spread use of child soldiers, and the sexual abuse and ‘forced’ marriage of girl soldiers. For the first time in international legal history, ‘forced marriage’ is being prosecuted as a ‘crime against humanity’ in Sierra Leone’s post-conflict ‘Special Court’. This represents an important step in advancing the human rights of girls, and follows a growing trend in international criminal prosecution of gender offences. Notwith- standing the significance of this indictment, international law is no panacea for the deeper inequalities and vulnerabilities that girls experience in peacetime and in wartime. This article advocates a specific focus on girls, who are often ‘disappeared’ under discourses of children and women. Moreover, using recommendations from Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this article attempts to point to social and economic inequalities that must be addressed alongside criminal prosecu- tion of gendered crimes against humanity. K EY W ORDS child soldiers; forced marriage; gender rights; girls; post-conflict justice; Sierra Leone I did not want to go; I was forced to go. They killed a lot of women who refused to go with them . . . When they capture young girls, you belong to the soldier who captured you. I was ‘married’ to him. (‘Isatu’, aged 15 at the time of her abduction; Amnesty International, 2000b) S OCIAL & L EGAL S TUDIES Copyright © 2006 SAGE Publications London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi, www.sagepublications.com 0964 6639, Vol. 15(3), 315–337 DOI: 10.1177/0964663906066611 I NTRODUCTION O N 6 M AY 2004, the Trial Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (http://www.sc-sl.org) issued a landmark decision allowing the prosecution of ‘forced marriage’ as a crime against humanity. This follows a growing trend in international legal measures that address gender-specific human rights abuses. Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war gained international notoriety for the widespread use of child soldiers by all parties to the conflict, rampant sexual violence, and the practice of ‘forced marriages’, which typically involved an adult male combatant taking a captured girl soldier as his ‘wife’. Sixty per cent of girls involved with fighting forces in Sierra Leone acted as ‘wives’ (McKay and Mazurana, 2004: 92). While the practice has euphemistically been termed ‘forced marriage’, many scholars and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) point out that it is, more accurately, sexual and domestic slavery (see for example, Amnesty International [hereafter, AI], 2000a; Alfredson, 2001: 5). The practice, moreover, is not unique to the conflict in Sierra Leone. The preponderance of forced marriage in armed conflicts around the world makes the Decision...
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girl soldiers - ‘O THER I NHUMANE A CTS ’ F ORCED M...

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