Added: July 4, 2015 – Last updated: November 7, 2015


Speakers: Jean Allain and Eithne Dowds

Title: The Law and Children Born of War

Subtitle: Rape, Slavery and Consent across Enemy Lines

Conference: Interdisciplinary perspectives on Children Born of War – from World War II to current conflict settings (June 4-5, 2015)

Session: Symposium 4: Human Rights and Children Born of War

Place: Conference Center of Schloss Herrenhause, Hannover, Germany

Date: June 5, 2015

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century, 21st Century | African History: Sierra Leone History | ProsecutionTrials / Special Court for Sierra Leone; TypesWartime Sexual Violence / Sierra Leone Civil War; Victims: Rape Children


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Jean Allain, School of Law, Queen's University Belfast

– Eithne Dowds:

Abstract: »Children Born of War are manifest through instances of rape but also by way of the enslavement of women qua ‘forced marriages’. This paper will consider a number of legal issues which transpired before the Special Court of Sierra Leone around consent and with regard to Children Born of War. In the first instance, consideration will be given to the legal status of rape in time of war, the product being a child. The approach of the Special Court touched on the accused’s knowledge of the victim’s non-consent. It will be argued that consent, rightly understood, cannot be given in conflict situations; that the power dynamics between solider and civilian are so inherently coercive that willing submission – or even affirmative consent – should not be recognized as constituting consent. The inclusion of consent is rooted in a patriarchal subtext that should be eroded rather than endorsed.
Also to emerge from the determinations of the Special Court of Sierra Leone, is the consideration of so-called ‘bush wives’, women abducted by rebel soldiers and forced to porter, cook, wash, and to have sexual intercourse. This phenomenon of ‘bush wives’ has in many instances led to Children Born of War. In 2008, the Special Court determined for the first time that such ‘forced marriages’ constitute a crime against humanity. The paper will challenge the findings of the Special Court, arguing that such instances do not constitute ‘marriages’ in any but the most patriarchal understanding of the term, and instead constitute enslavement as a war crime. That done, the paper will consider the status in law of children born of such ‘relationships’, and consider some instances where such ‘bush wives’ remain with their captors, the Children Born of War, constituting a family.
The paper will then go further in asking the question whether, in war, any child born across enemy lines should be considered a product of either rape or enslavement? Can free consent be given across enemy lines? Should unions between military forces and civilians under occupation be sanctioned by law? What of such unions between UN Peacekeepers and women in refugee camps? Are Children Born of War a product of collaboration?« (Source: Conference Programme)

Wikipedia: History of Africa: History of Sierra Leone | Court: International court / Special Court for Sierra Leone | Pregnancy: Pregnancy from rape / War children | Sexual violence: Types of rape / Wartime sexual violence | War: Sierra Leone Civil War / Rape during the Sierra Leone Civil War