Pawan Bimali and Bishnu Pathak, Ph.D. – Conflict Study Center, Nepal

Executive Summary

Each year thousands of children under 18-year have been affected by armed conflict, directly and indirectly. They are recruited on the hope (of better future), fear, and insecurity. Child soldier is widely practiced in the form of spies, porters, messengers, cooks, lay or clear landmines, training or guarding other children, weapons transport workers, etc. in conflict-prone countries. Girl child is always at high risk of rape and other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Such forms rob their childhood and expose to terrible endangers through the psychological, physical and sociocultural sufferings.

Due to these consequences, child soldiers are deprived of their basic and constitutional fundamental rights such as right to life, liberty, security and so forth. Most of them die or badly injured during the battle. In case of their rescue, socio-cultural reintegration is difficult. Child soldiers are double victimized while most of the relatives are reluctant to accept them and the surrounding community is negative and biased to them. The situation is even worse for the girl soldiers.

The issue of child soldiers has been a global problem where around 300,000 children are serving in more than 30 countries. Internal armed or socio-cultural conflict, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, insecurity and religious, social and political causes are some of the major reasons for its prevalence. Easily and cheaply available small arms and light weapons (SALW) fuel this problem further. The desire of authoritarian regimes, along with bad governance, injustice, ethno-cultural identity-based interests, unequal distribution of resources and ideology are its root causes.

Unpaid service, easily available (capture to children), obedient, dependent and easy to use in different circumstances are the attractions for the warlord(s) to choose children. So they are vulnerable. Some commanders believe that children are more efficient and better fighter than the other soldiers. They are not easily noticeable by the enemies.

Child soldiering is not a problem of single community. The negative effects are not limited in the concerned country, only. In some of the war torn countries, it seems that majority of future population will be mentally and physically injured ex-combatants. This is a serious global threat. Therefore, each and every leader of the whole world has to be serious on this matter. Otherwise, this problem can be a catastrophe to the entire human kinds. Child soldier is the worst form of modern slavery. It seems a local problem of conflicting countries, at present, but it is a global consequence and it causes global effects in the long run. It is true that “Injustice anywhere is a challenge to justice everywhere.”

The end of this problem is possible but it requires both national and global level-programs, strategies and attentions. Children not to be recruited by both state and non-state armed forces into armies, armed forces, revolts, militias, guerrillas, etc. are the sole desire of humankind. UN General Assembly has passed a convention and a protocol to end this cruel and hideous crime. But there is no substantial change. Almost all the countries, except two, have signed and ratified the convention and majority members have signed protocol of child rights but they lack effective enforcement body.



This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 23 Dec 2009.

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