Military use of children

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The military use of children takes three distinct forms: children can take direct part in hostilities (child soldiers), or they can be used in support roles such as porters, spies, messengers, look outs, and sexual slaves; or they can be used for political advantage either as human shields or in propaganda.

Throughout history and in many cultures, children have been extensively involved in military campaigns even when such practices were supposedly against cultural morals. Since the 1970s a number of international conventions have come into effect that try to limit the participation of children in armed conflicts, nevertheless the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers reports that the use of children in military forces, and the active participation of children in armed conflicts is widespread.


International law

International human rights law

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 38, (1989) proclaimed: "State 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, minors who are over the age of 15 but still remain under the age of 18 are still voluntarily able to take part in combat as soldiers. The Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict to the Convention that came into force in 2002 stipulates that its State Parties "shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons below the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities and that they are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces".[1] The Optional Protocol further obligates states to "take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices." (Art 4, Optional Protocol.)[2] Likewise, under the Optional 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. (Art 6(3) Optional Protocol.)[2]

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