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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: January 2021

21 - A Gender Perspective on Girls and Young Women in Armed Conflicts and Organised Armed Violence – Some Examples from Latin America


‘The human rights violations that occur when children are used in hostilities are not limited to children killing and being killed or injured. Girls also are used as soldiers, have been victims of rape and other sexual abuse. The human rights impacts … are terrible and far-reaching, and … have an impact not only on those children directly concerned but also on their families and communities, and continue long after the hostilities have ended.’

(Mary Robinson, 2000)


While many children are involved in wars today, it is equally important to account for those children who are involved in organised armed violence. In doing so we can understand the true nature of the problem of how armed children and young people are affected socially, economically and politically in the region as a whole.This chapter deals with girls and young women who are involved in armed conflicts and organized armed violence in Latin America. We will adopt a sociology of law perspective and will look at the interrelation between gender, age, class and ethnicity. Some insights are drawn from the feminist concept of intersectionality (Yuval Davis) and the concept of gender advanced by Ramazanoglu and Holland, while other ideas come from feminist child law (Bridgeman and Monk) and the dilemma of the girl child in international human rights law. Some of the questions being addressed from a gender perspective include: Why do girls join the armed forces and become members of armed opposition groups in the first place, and what roles do they play as members? And on a more general level, are there any differences between the processes of recruitment into armed conflict and juvenile gangs, which are involved in organised armed violence? Our study is based on a number of sources, including reports from international organisations (United Nations, UNICEF and UNIFEM, as well as the OAS and UNESCO) and from international and national NGOs (particularly Human Rights Watch, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Save the Children and Amnesty International).