Role Of Child Soldiers In Armed Conflict

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Child soldiers are individuals under the age of 18 who are recruited in the paramilitary forces for the purpose of killing, cooking for the soldiers, potters, act as messengers, fulfilment of sexual desires or in any other way the commandant wants. International humanitarian law fails to provide effective protection, particularly in the internal conflicts which are the most common battlefields today. In the chaos of these armed conflicts contested incompatibility concerning the two parties leads to catastrophic lives of the child soldiers. These individuals who are more compliant and easy to manipulate are denied the human rights. The participation of children in hostilities has become an increasingly common phenomenon, connected to the emergence of new kinds of conflict. The mental and physical disorder caused in children by their participation is rarely addressed. The spread of insurrection war is conducive to the use of children. Hundreds of thousands of children from all over the world are recruited into paramilitaries due to the high level of insecurity and end of volunteering.

‘The report, from the Kingston University’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, found that children had recently been actively involved in plots, carried on by terrorists across the world.’ The main reasons of children being diverted towards these activities are separation from their families, high poverty levels, displacement from homes, having limited access to education or living in a combat zone. Some children have both their parents in these terrorist activities too and are born in the war area which plays a big role. Such children are naturally recruited in these activities as they are not given any choices. Terrorists recruit children as they are easier to brainwash and have very limited needs. They take the advantage of their innocence and being very young, to understand and resist, they are drawn and convicted into violence. This situation is common in African and Arab countries because they are constantly at war.

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In Somalia, for example, the al Shabab has denied the access to education. Schools have been destroyed and teachers fear to go teaching. Girls are further prone to inhuman treatment at the hands of elderly soldiers who rape them and marry them forcefully. International human rights law has a significant part based on the protection of children and young person’s upto the age of eighteen years.

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The best way of raising the age of participation in hostility would be to adopt a declaration containing minimum humanitarian standards, banning any participation whatsoever under eighteen year of age and clearly specifying the responsibilities of adults in-charge. ‘In October 1998, the United Nations Secretary-General also established a new policy that would require that civilian police and military observers in United Nations peacekeeping operations are at least 25 years old. Troops in national contingents are to be at least 21 years old, but not less than 18.’

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The child soldiers should have adequate access to rehabilitation programs which will help them relocate back to their families or get back to school and live their childhood like children in the other parts of the world live. They should not be treated as outcasts but instead they should receive vocational training in order to have an easy time re-entering the civilian life and even we should make an effort to accept them and help them in building their life and careers. If the children lack this support they can easily be recruited back to the armed groups which would be very harmful not only to them but also to the society as a whole

References : Cohn,Ilene, and Guy S. Goodwin-Gill’s book Child soldiers : The role of children in armed conflict. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004.

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