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Brutalizing the Young


Anuradha Chenoy

POWER GAMES IN WAR AND PEACE: THE TRAGIC IMPACT OF CORRUPTION, VIOLENCE AND IMPUNITY ON THE SRI LANKAN CHILD
By Harendra de Silva
publisher not metioned, 2003, pp. 136, price not stated.

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 5-6 May/June 2004

Armed conflicts have a devastating impact on children, and despite records and  documentation of the use and abuse of children in conflicts,  the international community has been unable to create measures for safety, security  or adequate rehabilitation for such children. So much so that the world paid little attention to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children that died or were deformed because of  malnutrition and lack of medicines as a result of the sanctions imposed on Iraq after 1991 by the world’s most powerful democracies—the US and the UK. So callous was their attitude that when the former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright was told of the plight, she retorted ‘that frankly, it was worth it.’          The child caught in a situation of armed conflict becomes a victim of physical injuries and deep trauma. The girl child is often sexually abused and the boys forced into combat as child soldiers. Children are maimed, orphaned, left to starve, not cared for, deprived of education, basic livelihood needs are denied. People who care about such gross child right and human right violations get appalled at the callousness of the international actors, states and leaders who continue to organize their politics through the use of wars, military occupation and sanctions. This book is the outcome of such a concern.      Harendra de Silva, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Kelaniya, and a campaigner for child rights, has used his experiences  to bring out the plight of children in the Sri Lankan conflict to highlight the immensity of this tragedy for children and consequently on society as a whole. De Silva shows how children get militarized at very young ages, by the kind of toys they play with (toy guns and toy soldiers) and with the stories and myths of martyrs and heroes that dominate children’s literature and history teaching. In conditions of armed conflict, such myths are replayed continuously and in addition, the feelings of retribution, the fear of rape and hurt, are all effectively used to make children early supporters of militarist nationalism.      A serious point raised by De Silva is that The Convention on Child Rights (CRC) that had mentioned the prevention of children from conscription has accepted  the cut off age for conscription as 15 years. Younger children are however being recruited officially and unofficially by armies, because it is believed that it is easier to train ...


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