Girls are vulnerable in situations of armed conflict and at a great risk of becoming victims of sexual violence and exploitation. They thus need special attention and protection.

Vulnerability of girls

In times of war, girls are raped and suffer from other forms of sexual violence with detrimental effect on their physical and mental health. When associated with an armed groups, girls might be forced into marriage and early pregnancy.

Even after commitments have been made to release children, armed groups sometimes refuse to give up the girls, holding them captive as “wives.” After years of association with an armed group, young women may decide themselves to stay because of their family ties and the dependency that have evolved over time. This is even more true in situations, where girls are rejected by their own communities because of their associations with rebel groups, including the “taint” of having been raped.

Special needs of girls

Girls are most often bypassed in reintegration programmes even though they are in greatest need of care and services. The reason is that many girls are unwilling to come forward to be identified as “bush wives” or to have their children labelled as “rebel babies.”

Even though girls are gradually receiving more attention, the child protection community, including the Office for Children and Armed Conflict must strive to further address the special needs of girls through effective advocacy and appropriate reintegration programs.