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What is a child soldier?

Although some child soldiers are as young as nine, most are between the ages of 14 and 18.
Although some child soldiers are as young as nine, most are between the ages of 14 and 18.

A child soldier is anyone under the age of eighteen who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity.

According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers:

“Child soldiers perform a range of tasks including participation in combat, laying mines and explosives; scouting, spying, acting as decoys, couriers or guards; training, drill or other preparations; logistics and support functions, portering, cooking and domestic labor; and sexual slavery or other recruitment for sexual purposes.”

Child soldiers are boys and girls who fight in adult wars, missing out on the safe childhood that many of us take for granted, but to which every child is entitled according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Facts

  • As of mid-2004, up to 100,000 children—some as young as nine—were actively involved in armed conflict in Africa.*
  • 80 per cent of children aged 8 to 13 in Sierra Leone had suffered the death of a parent, sibling or close relative; 74 per cent had seen somebody being killed or injured with machetes; 68 per cent had seen somebody being burned to death or tortured; and nearly 10 per cent of girls had been gang-raped.***
  • 66 per cent of children in Angola had seen people murdered, and 67 per cent had seen people beaten or tortured. **
  • 55 per cent of children in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina had been shot at, and 66 per cent had been in a situation where they expected to die. **
  • The United States military has a long standing policy of allowing 17 year olds to enter the military with parental consent.
  • The United States is one of only two countries (the other being Somalia) that has yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in which a child is defined as anyone under the age of 18.

Think—What do you think about governments recruiting minors into the armed forces?

(*The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers; **UNICEF; ***Plan)


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