11-Year-Old Girls = Front-Line Soldiers


by Amanda Kloer

girl_soldier1In Sri Lanka, if you were to tell the Tamil Tigers that they fight like a bunch of little girls, you would be right.  That’s because a large portion of the soldiers for the terrorist group are little girls- girls between ages 11 and 16, to be exact.

Sri Lankan army officers have noticed that an increasing proportion of the “soldiers” fighting on the front lines of the Tamil Tigers’ ongoing conflict with the Sri Lankan government are young girls.  Major-General Jaggath Dias was understanding freaked-out at the prospect of having to shoot at 11-year-old girls as opposed to grown men in a combat situation.  He said,

“Girls as young as eleven. Our soldiers have seen them on the front line. It’s very difficult to shoot a child. But it does not matter what age, you have to shoot.”

These young girls have been kidnapped or coerced and trafficked as child soldiers.  Many were taken from their families at very, very young ages and raised to be soldiers for the Tigers.  In combat, the girls are supplied with cyanide capsules so they can commit suicide rather than be taken hostage and risk giving up information about the terrorist organization.  They are used as human shields for the men in the army, truly treated as disposable people.

Often, when we talk about the trafficking of young girls, we assume they are being trafficked into the commercial sex industry.  But young girls are exploited as child soldiers as well, and they are also trafficked into a number of labor industries, including domestic servitude.  I would not be surprised, however, if these child soldiers were raped or otherwise sexually abused during their captivity.  What we talk about even less, is how terrorism and human trafficking are related, and often concurrent.  I know of very little research in this area, and I would love to learn more if anyone has information about it.

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