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Children of war

Publication Date : 15-06-2012


During the Maoist insurgency, Nepal often made it to the front pages of international newspapers and magazines. Iconic pictures of women and children holding guns, training at camps in what the international media would report as the "lap of the Himalayas", and putting together bombs with a pressure-cooker commonly featured in the articles and photo spreads. The international community became somewhat obsessed by the Maoist party’s use of women, and particularly children, in their decade-long conflict.

Stories of children being wooed away from school and into People's Liberation Army (PLA) training camps, or simply forced into them, were nationally covered too. To match, local and international human rights organisations, civil society and the media kicked up frenzy over their use.

And then came the stories of violence and rape against children during the war—by both the Maoists and the state security forces. The stories of girls as young at 12 or 14, being raped or raped and killed, continues to haunt the lives of many families in the country. What the UN termed as "grave violations" of human rights against children, were in sum, a characteristic feature of the conflict.

Times have changed. Unlike in the past, the UN Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict released late last month features Nepal a lot less than previous years. That’s certainly a good development.

In the couple of paragraphs that do feature Nepal, the first and most important aspect covered is the delisting of the Maoist party from the list of those recruiting and using children in armed conflicts. It further goes on to say that the party has undertaken measures to comply with the action plan the UN had set out for them insofar as suspending payments to minors, ceasing to provide them with housing and to encourage the disqualified minors to register for the reintergration programme provided by the UN.

Further, the report states that in Nepal, in contrary to previous years, conflict-related violations against children have significantly decreased, and that Nepal is no longer a conflict-ridden country. Because of the image that the country developed over the past decade or so, many people residing outside of the country like to see Nepal as a nation still on the brink of collapse.

And while the political scenario in the country is in no way stable, the days of a real and violent civil war are long gone, although there are still a few armed groups in the country that appear more like criminal gangs than political outfits. While that is the case, the UN report does warn that children are still at risk due to the presence of armed groups operating with political and criminal motives in the Tarai and the Eastern hills. Even this past year, four children have died as a consequence of violence and 11 children were injured by explosive remnants of the war across the country.

Out of the mountain of sensational coverage in recent times that has harmed the country’s international image, the delisting will hopefully contribute positively to Nepal’s reputation.


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