Research Handbook on Child Soldiers
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Research Handbook on Child Soldiers

Edited by Mark A. Drumbl and Jastine C. Barrett

Child soldiers remain poorly understood and inadequately protected, despite significant media attention and many policy initiatives. This Research Handbook aims to redress this troubling gap. It offers a reflective, fresh and nuanced review of the complex issue of child soldiering. The Handbook brings together scholars from six continents, diverse experiences, and a broad range of disciplines. Along the way, it unpacks the life-cycle of youth and militarization: from recruitment to demobilization to return to civilian life. The overarching aim of the Handbook is to render the invisible visible – the contributions map the unmapped and chart new directions. Challenging prevailing assumptions and conceptions, the Research Handbook on Child Soldiers focuses on adversity but also capacity: emphasising the resilience, humanity, and potentiality of children affected (rather than ‘afflicted’) by armed conflict.
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Chapter 5: Getting Tambo out of limbo: exploring alternative legal frameworks that are more sensitive to the agency of children and young people in armed conflict

Karl Hanson and Christelle Molima


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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