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Africa's women soldiers forgotten victims of war

Pressganged into the ranks and often scarred by sexual abuse, Africa's girl soldiers are the forgotten victims of the continent's raging conflicts, a new Canadian report warns.
By Agence France-Presse | PTI, Montreal
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2004 10:04 AM IST

nPressganged into the ranks and often scarred by sexual abuse, Africa's girl soldiers are the forgotten victims of the continent's raging conflicts, a new Canadian report warns.

Women victims of war, some captured as "wives" by rebel warlords, face discrimination and abuse from governments, communities and even international organisations, the report "Where are the Girls" warns.

The study, conducted by the Canadian group "Rights and Democracy" focuses on three conflict-torn nations in Africa - Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

In Uganda, for example, between 70 and 80 percent of rebel groups battling government forces were classified by the report as child soliers, of which 30 percent were girls.

Rights and Democracy researchers Susan McKay and Dyan Mazarana, who launched their report here Thursday, interviewed more than 200 women and young girl soldiers from the three countries over three years.

When peace returns, girl soldiers rarely get targeted help, said Mazarana.

"Girls are discriminated against by local groups and officials, governments and international bodies that keep secret or are unwilling to recognize their presence, needs and rights during conflict, post-conflict, demobilization and social reintegration." said Mazarana.

"Their communities may not welcome them because of the stigma attached to rape and giving birth to babies fathered by rebel-captor "husbands".

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