Postcolonial Feminist Theory and the Shortcomings of International Law in Providing Sufficient Protection for Girl Soldiers in Armed Conflict. Case studies from the Sri Lankan and Ugandan wars

  • Jassi Sandhar

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis is a critical examination of the protections and mechanisms afforded to girl soldiers in armed conflict under international law, using the Sri Lankan and Ugandan wars as case studies. Grounded in postcolonial feminism, and using feminist critical discourse analysis as the methodological approach, it explores how girls in armed conflict are currently depicted within much discourse and how this impacts their realities during and post-conflict. It explores how gendered war narratives and the legal and policy discourses about child soldiering expose a racialised and gendered agenda, one which is grounded in neo-colonialism and Othering, and within which girl soldiers embody the ‘victim-subject’. Such a positioning has influenced, as well as been influenced by, the international legal frameworks designed for girl soldiers.

Though there have been efforts to expand the traditional definitions of a child soldier to include the multifaceted roles girls play during war, the heterogeneity of girl soldiers’ identities and experiences means that the current universal applications in international law are insufficient at adequately protecting their plight pre, during and post conflict. This thesis therefore argues that to address the needs of girl soldiers requires contextualising their identities within the wider social, political, economic and cultural systems which influence their participation, as well as the push and pull factors which see them become part of armed groups. In doing so, it recognises that the notion of intersectionality and constructions of girlhood are required in debates about girl’s rights and girls in armed conflict. This thesis further suggests that the epistemic injustice which currently takes place against child soldiers, where they are removed from the academic scholarship or about knowledge produced about their involvement in the conflicts, which impacts legal and policy developments, has implications for their protection and reintegration post-conflict and thus requires attention.
Date of Award2 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorRachel H Murray (Supervisor), Yvette Russell (Supervisor) & Aleardo Zanghellini (Supervisor)

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