A new report shows that current efforts to release children from armed groups often overlook the fact that over 120,000 girls have been abducted and forced to fight with armed groups around the world. According to the Save the Children report “Forgotten Casualties of War: Girls in Armed Conflict,” girls as young as eight years old are being forced to be sex slaves or so-called “wives” of commanders.
The report shows that approximately 300,000 children are involved in armed conflict around the world today, and up to 40 percent of them are girls. In addition to being sexually violated by armed groups, girls are forced to take an active part in fighting. They also take on other duties such as cleaning and providing medical care.
Save the Children finds that the international community’s efforts to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate (DDR) armed groups are failing because of discrimination against girls. DDR programs often ignore the problems girls specifically face, such as being ostracized by their families because they are often seen by their families as being promiscuous and dirty. In addition, only a very small percentage of girls participate in the formal DDR processes. In Sierra Leone, Save the Children found that only 4.2 percent of girls in armed groups went through the formal DDR process.