Taking a step back from the almost exclusively protectionist approach through which international law pertaining to children and armed conflict is generically understood, this chapter explores alternative legal frameworks that could be more sensitive and responsive to young people’s active agency throughout the peace–war–recovery continuum without abandoning their rights to protection. The first section presents a theoretical framework that includes children’s conceptions and enactments of their rights. This framework is composed of the notions of living rights, social justice and translations. The chapter then examines how international humanitarian and human rights law considers young people who are legally allowed to be recruited into the armed forces, such as children over 16 years of age who have – in compliance with international rules – voluntarily joined government forces. An examination of literature on youth activism and on citizenship to explore young people’s rights to participate in violent political struggles or in the military then follows. In conclusion, the chapter contends that the right of children to participate in contexts of violence and armed conflict is not necessarily a violation of children’s rights. In the local contexts in which they come to have meaning, rights that recognize children’s subjectivities can even be understood as empowering if they do justice to children and young people’s efforts and suffering in the dramatic and adverse contexts of armed conflict.
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