Instead of living their childhood, children from all around the globe are participating in armed conflicts. They’re holding guns instead of toys while being used as mere instruments to further their recruiter’s agenda. Then, they are thrust into the middle of a war zone. Even though this practice is dwindling around the world, reports prove that there are almost 300,000 children currently serving as soldiers in more than 20 countries.
A child soldier is any boy or girl under the age of 18 who is recruited to be a part of an army or an armed conflict. Even though the Current international law sets 15 years as the minimum age for recruitment in the army and participation in conflicts, the age of adulthood, according to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, is still 18.
Additionally, Reports prove that 40% of child soldiers are girls.
Many of these soldiers are recruited to participate and fight on the front lines. Some are used as bodyguards while others participate in suicide missions, such as suicide bombings. However, The roles of child soldiers aren’t limited to participating in hostilities since they also play a role in support functions. However, all of their tasks entail great risk and hardship.
A child soldier might be recruited to act as a cook, spy, messenger, human shield, mine “detector”, or even as a sex slave.
Child soldiers are recruited either voluntarily or involuntarily. In some cases, children are abducted, threatened, or coerced into joining. In other cases, children are beaten into submission.
However, there are many instances where children choose to volunteer and participate. Economic pressure is one of the main reasons for such actions. Being poor, displaced, separated from their family, children choose to join for the sake of their survival.
Some also join due to Drug-related reasons.
On the other hand, social pressure also plays a role in voluntary recruitment. Kids are brainwashed into believing that they have to fight or aid a certain party by the adults around them.
Unfortunately, there are many reasons for recruiting child soldiers. Not only are children more manageable and obedient, but they are also easier to manipulate than adults. Recruiters can use Revenge, community identity, or ideology to influence innocent kids and brainwash them into joining.
Moreover, children are often less conscious of the danger surrounding war zones than adults. They’re usually full of energy, competitive, and eager to prove their worth. Thus, making them the ideal soldiers.
As Lucien, a 12-year-old ex-child soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo said “Children, my dear brother, are the best fighters of the century. They have more energy than older people. They resist without feeling physical pain.”
Furthermore, child soldiers are considered a cheaper alternative to adult soldiers. The necessary investments for recruiting, training, and arming children are less costly than those for adults. They also require less space and need less food and water.
Even though using child soldiers is considered a direct violation of the UN’s human rights, almost Fifty countries still allow their recruitment. However, non-state armed groups also allow their recruitment. The UN reports proved that government forces are guilty of at least 4000 verified violations related to child soldiers in the 20 examined countries. Though non-state armed groups are responsible for recruiting over 11,500 kids.
These countries include:
-Afghanistan, where children are being recruited by insurgent groups, like the Taliban, and the Afghan National Police.
-Burma, where children serve in the national army or armed ethnic opposition groups.
-The central African Republic, where hundreds of kids join the rebels groups.
-Chad, where thousands of children either join the government or the rebels forces.
-Colombia, where kids are recruited to serve irregular armed groups.
-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where almost 30,000 boys and girls serve either the government or the rebel troops.
-India, where Maoist “Naxalite” rebels recruit child soldiers.
-Iraq, where kids are recruited by Al-Qaeda
-Yemen, where the government and its opposing forces use them.
Child Soldiering has many horrendous impacts. Not only do thousands of kids die as a direct consequence of their recruitment, but they also might get crippled for life.
However, in some cases, the psychological impact of it is far worse than the physical one. Ex-child soldiers usually suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Trauma, Depression, Suicidality, Dissociation, and Derealization.
They are also observed to show Anti-social and Disruptive Behaviors along with Cognitive, Educational, and Occupational Impairment.
In brief, children are losing their innocence as a direct result of adults’ failure. Child soldiers are victims of life’s cruelty, whether they join armed forces willingly or by force. Therefore, actions should be taken in order to stop their suffering.
Becker, J., Sheppard, B., & Motaparthy, P. (n.d.). Child Soldiers. Retrieved May 03, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/topic/childrens-rights/child-soldiers
Martz, E. (2010). Trauma rehabilitation after war and conflict community and individual perspectives. New York: Springer.
Child Soldiers Worldwide. (2015, June 24). Retrieved May 03, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/12/child-soldiers-worldwide
10 countries where child soldiers are still recruited in armed conflicts – Central African Republic. (2017). Retrieved May 03, 2020, from https://reliefweb.int/report/central-african-republic/10-countries-where-child-soldiers-are-still-recruited-armed
Child Soldiers. (2017, October 04). Retrieved May 03, 2020, from https://www.humanium.org/en/child-soldier/
Child Recruitment and Use – United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict | To promote and protect the rights of all children affected by armed conflict. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2020, from https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/six-grave-violations/child-soldiers/
Burke, J. (2017, July 24). ‘If you are old enough to carry a gun, you are old enough to be a soldier’. Retrieved May 03, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jul/24/south-sudan-child-soldiers
11 Facts About Child Soldiers. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2020, from https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-child-soldiers
Child soldiers. (2017, December 15). Retrieved May 03, 2020, from https://theirworld.org/explainers/child-soldiers
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