There have always been children born during and after conflicts and wars where the father has been a member of an enemy, allied or peacekeeping force and the mother a local citizen.
Knowledge available so far indicates that the consequences for many of the children have been devastating, independent of whether the relationship between mother and father was of a loving or exploitative nature. The children are born with a stigma of belonging to the enemy and are often treated as such, both at the social and political level. Some have been abandoned, abused, mobbed, excluded from family and community and even harassed by the state.
Little evidence exists on this topic, as the mothers are often too bitter or traumatized to talk about their experiences. The children themselves may have no knowledge about their biological origin or they know, feel and hear about their origin from relatives or community members, but are too afraid to address the issue – from an early age they learn that this topic is a taboo.
Nevertheless, some information exists from different conflicts and countries such as children fathered by German soldiers and local women in occupied countries during World War II, children fathered by US soldiers and Vietnamese women during the Vietnam war, and children born of rape as a military strategy of ethnic cleansing during the civil war in former Yugoslavia.
Some researchers working on this topic in different historical and geographical contexts met at a workshop in Cologne in December 2006 organized by the "War and Children Identity Project" in Bergen, Norway and the Zentralarchiv für empirische Sozialforschung, Cologne, Germany. A summary of questions address at this meeting can be found below.
For further information on the expert meeting regarding the topic "Consolidating the Evidence Base of Children Born of War" (2006), please click here
Terminology used in describing children fathered by enemy soldiers in different conflicts vary.
In Norway, for example, the neutral term used to characterise children fathered by German soldiers and Norwegian women during WWII is “krigsbarn” (war children) or "tyskerunge" (German kid). The French used the expression “Enfants de Boches”, and the Dutch “moeffenkinder”. The term “Wehrmachtskinder” introduced by Drolshagen (2005) might be meaningful with regard to describing children fathered by German soldiers in occupied territories during WWII, however, is not applicable as a concept describing children born of war in conflict and war across time and nation. In Vietnam, for example, the children of US soldiers and Vietnamese women were called “Bui doi” (dust of life) (Grieg 2001:20). Many other expressions are used to describe children born in different wars, common for most are that their names have a negative touch.
In 2006 a group of researcher working on the topic decided to apply the term ‘children born of war’ (Mochmann 2006). It was agreed that the term "children born of war" was considered the most appropriate concept as it is objective and embeds all children who have one parent who is part of an army or peace keeping force and the other parent a local citizen independent of time and geographical context, type of conflict and origin of conception.
Children born of war may be defined as “a child that has one parent that was part of an army or peace keeping force and the other parent a local citizen"
Categories of children born of war as suggested by Mochmann 2008 and 2009:
Children of soldiers from enemy soldiers and occupation forces
This category includes children of enemy soldiers and children of sodiers from allied forces. As these two categories are very often difficult to separate clearly they are incorporated into one.Children of enemy soldiers are fathered by foreign soldiers who are located in the country or region and clearly defined as enemies such as German soldiers in were often in Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, France, and Russia during WWII or Bosnian Serb Army in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and US soldiers in Vietnam.
In the case of children of soldiers from allied forces the soldiers can be seen as enemies or allied, depending on the view of the local population. The allied forces occupying Germany in the post WWII years were for example in the population by some conceived as saviours and by others as enemies. In the case of Canadian troops in Great Britain or the Netherlands or US troops on Iceland, these were allied troops. Nevertheless, a liaison between local women and participants of the allied forces was often not accepted in the community and both mothers and children were stigmatised
Children of child soldiers
In recent years, the topic of children born by child soldiers has reached the public agenda. An estimated 25.000 children, of whom 7.500 are girls have been abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda since the start of the conflict. Among these, some 1000 are ”child mothers” who conceived while in captivity (UN News Centre, 2006). Considering that girls are involved in many other wars and conflicts around the world such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone and Indonesia, it becomes clear that this is not a marginal problem, particularly when also taking into account that the number may be assumed to be even higher.
Children of peacekeeping forces
Children fathered by members of peackeeping forces. For example in December 2007 the UN General Assembly implemented the "United Nation Comprehensive Strategy on Assistance and Support to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by United Nations Staff and Related Personel". The United Nations commits to providing assistance and support to three different categories of persons: (a) “complainants”; (b) “victims”; and (c) children born as a result of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations staff or related personnel. This commitment, however, in no way diminishes or replaces the responsibility of the individual perpetrators of acts of sexual exploitation and abuse” (A/RES/62/214). This document and guidlines may serve as best practise for all military (and other staff) involved in peacekeeping operations.