A child soldier is anyone under the age of 18 who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity. They perform various tasks including participation in combat, scouting, spying, and acting as couriers or guards, or are subjected to a kind of slavery or sexual harassment by their adult handlers. They are also used as human shields and also for propaganda.
In many countries, children have been extensively involved in military campaigns. Developed countries such as United Kingdom and Australia, and many countries in the third world such as Myanmar, Nepal, and Iran, etc. recruit children under 18 years as their soldiers. Many rebel groups of different countries recruit even children of 5–6 years of age. In India also police suspected that CPI(Maoist) recruits children as young as 5 or 6 years of age into their Bal Sangham (Kid Squad), gives them arms training and sometimes uses them as human shields.
A report submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre to the 6th session of the UN Human Rights Council says that in Chattisgarh (India) both the state police and Naxalite groups used children as young as 5 years old. Those children were abducted from their schools, homes and playgrounds. They were used as fighters, guards, potters, messengers, etc.
In Manipur (India), many children have lost their relatives .The armed conflict has been waged over the past decade. Some rebel groups forcibly recruit children under 16 years as their fighters. For the first time such recruitments came to light in 2008 when a number of boys were forced to join the militant outfits. Their parents were convinced that their children would be given education and job. There are also cases of parents, out of poverty, giving away their children to the rebel groups. They thought that if they do so they will be free from the child’s demand for food, clothes, education and other cares. There were also cases of parents exchanging their children for money. NDTV reported that 600 child soldiers are in use in Manipur. Due to armed conflict students are sent to various part of India for education. This is causing a great lost in the economy of the state.
The United Nations Convention on the rights of child, Article 36 (1989) proclaimed that “[s]tate parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 15 years do not take a direct part in hostilities”. However, people who are over the age of 18 are still voluntarily able to take part in combat as soldiers. Under the protocol states are required to demobilize children within their jurisdiction who have been recruited or used in hostilities, and to provide assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration.
The International Criminal Court (ICC), headquartered in Hague, sentenced Congolese militia leader, Thomas Lubanga, to 14 years imprisonment for using children under 15 years as his rebel fighters.
The Red Hand Day on 12 February is an annual commemoration day to draw public attention to the practice using children as soldiers in wars and armed conflicts.
Thus, the use of children as soldiers should be condemned by all people. Both the state and non-state armed forces must follow the UN convention on the rights of children. When both the parties do not abuse children, conflict areas would become less cruel places to live in for children, and only then can there be hope for a better future in these areas.
* This article was published as part of Cottage Reader‘s young students’ creativity and critical project. The editors did not exercise their critical editorial control in publishing it beyond some very little grammatical and style issues.
1 Communist Party of India
# About the author:
Deepu Singh Yengkhom was born in 26 Mar 1997 at Kakching, small town in Manipur state, India. He is currently a student of Class XI (Arts) at the Kakching Higher Secondary School. His areas of interest include studying, short stories, football etc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.