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Children affected by conflict-related sexual violence

Children suffer specific harms that must be addressed through reparation, but they are often unable to advocate for what they need by themselves. Either because people are not listening, they are too young to voice their opinions, or they have not been given an opportunity to do so.  

From facing an inability to acquire legal identity, destroyed family lives, losing their education, and intense community stigma, the harms children face are serious. They can impact a child for life by setting them on a path of poverty and exclusion. Many children affected by conflict-related sexual violence have now become adults, and as their needs may change with age, their right to reparation does not. 

Children affected by conflict-related sexual violence need psychological support, access to education, medical care, and a legal identity. They also need to heal collectively with their family and community. 

What is transgenerational harm?

The hardships and consequences of serious harms that can be passed from a parent to a child, making an intergenerational cycle of dysfunction. For children of caregivers who suffered conflict-related sexual violence this can include neglectful parenting, missing school, abuse, economic hardships, and social ostracisation. A full definition is available with the ICC.[1]

There are different categories of children affected by conflict-related sexual violence: 

  • Children who have suffered conflict-related sexual violence 

  • Children born from conflict-related sexual violence 

  • Children who witnessed conflict-related sexual violence 

  • Children whose caregiver suffered conflict-related sexual violence 

As an organisation, the Global Survivors Fund is strategically focusing on realising the right to reparation for children affected by conflict-related sexual violence. Our children strategy focuses on three thematic priorities: education and livelihood training as a form of reparation; co-creation and other forms of participation; access to legal identity and nationality for children born of conflict-related sexual violence. Additionally, the fight against stigmatisation of children affected by conflict-related sexual violence by their communities and families is cross-cutting in all our actions. Activities in this area span across all pillars of our work. 

We are including children in our interim reparative measures projects, showing that it is possible for children to receive meaningful and holistic reparations tailored to their needs. In Nigeria, this looks like sending girls, who spent years in Boko Haram captivity, back to school through custom education programmes delivered with a trauma informed approach.

In many countries, children born from conflict-related sexual violence are unable to obtain birth certificates because their father cannot be named on the document. To address this, GSF is finding ways to get children their birth certificates so they can legally exist, enjoy the rights of citizenship and avoid statelessness. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, GSF supported 98 children in obtaining their birth certificates. 

Our community could not accept this child born of rape. But thanks to this project, she is being looked after and now she has her birth certificate. She is acknowledged and treated like any other child in the house.

— Georgette Mukuna, survivor from Democratic Republic of the Congo

We are advocating for the specific rights, harms, and needs of children affected by conflict-related sexual violence to be included in international conversations on the right to reparation. Normative frameworks relating to children’s right to reparation, and recognition of their ability to participate in defining and implementing reparations, need to be strengthened globally.

We are working with governments to ensure that there is increased capacity and commitment to include children in administrative reparation programmes. Reparation for children must be comprehensive and consist of measures to address the unique harms they suffer and their specific needs, like trauma informed education and paediatric care.

A selection of briefings

Our briefing on reparation for children born of conflict-related sexual violence.

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Our outcome report from an expert roundtable on legal identity.

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Notes

  1. ICC-01/04-02/06, page 30. Available here: https://www.icc-cpi.int/sites/default/files/CourtRecords/CR2021_01889.PDF
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