Wartime Sexual Violence: Assessing a Human Security Response to War-Affected Girls in Sierra Leone

Wartime sexual violence continues to be widespread and systematic in contemporary conflicts. Although the problem is gaining increasing international attention, it has remained, for the most part, peripheral within the domain of security studies. However, the human security agenda may have the capacity to raise the profile of wartime sexual violence and offer a useful framework from which to understand and respond to the unique needs of war-affected girls and women. This article explores the capacity of the human security agenda, both conceptually and practically, to address the plight of girl victims of sexual violence in the aftermath of Sierra Leone’s conflict. Drawing upon the perspectives and experiences of three girls formerly associated with Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front, the article traces the extreme forms of sexual violence and insecurity girls were forced to endure, both during and following the conflict. It also examines a number of human security efforts implemented in the conflict’s aftermath and their impact on the level of empowerment, protection and security of girls. The broader implications of these human security efforts are explored in light of the girls’ lived realities in post-conflict Sierra Leone.