What is a Child Soldier?
Is using Child Soldiers really ok? Some may say that it’s alright to use child soldiers while others are trying to stop some countries in our world from using children as soldiers.
Child soldiers are being used in our world today, these children are used to be spies, decoys, cooks, in the front lines of the battles and the girls are many times used as sex slaves. To become a child soldier many times the children are kidnapped from their homes and forced to kill their own family so they won’t have a home to return to. Many people in our world today do not agree with militaries using children to fight battles because it is ruining the lives children and also it is not fair to put a child fighting against a grown man or woman. The United Nations or the UN is trying to put a stop to children being used as soldiers and they have made a goal to have no child soldiers in the world by 2016. Many people believe that using child soldiers is very wrong and messed up, yet some countries use children as soldiers. The number of children being used as soldiers in our world has been growing every year. In our world today the number of child soldiers being used in wars is close to 250, 000 children. Of all the child soldier in this world about 60% of them are boys and about 40% are girls. Back in the old days when guns were not as popular as they are in today’s world, child soldiers were not as popular. They weren’t as popular because the weapons used during wars were swords or large knifes which were much too heavy for a child to use against an enemy and would not have a chance against an actual adult soldier. Although in our world today the child soldiers are able to use assault rifles that are light enough for a child to handle. The assault rifles that are commonly found being used by the child soldiers are the M16 and the AK47 because these weapons are very light as well as very simple to operate. These weapons are so simple to use that a child soldier at an age of 10 years old can disassemble and reassemble it in a matter of minutes. Groups will use child soldiers during wars because nobody in the world wants to kill a child during a war.
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The reason children are used as soldiers is because they are very easy to brainwash and manipulate. When an army or group has a child as a soldier they do not need to pay the child as much as they would have to pay adults in the army. Children also have not developed a full sense of danger so the army does not need to worry very much about the children running away from the battle. Since the children do not eat as much as adults the army does not need to spend a lot of money on food. Another reason militaries like to use children as soldiers is because they can be used as spies or even decoys because children can more easily blend into a crowd than an adult spy could because most people look at a child and don’t think they could do any harm to anyone or be an enemy.
Children are very vulnerable to recruitment by groups or armies if they are not educated, poor, not with a family, or they live in a war zone. Many children do not volunteer to join these militaries that have child soldiers but instead they have been forcibly recruited by the militaries. Even though many governments have declared that using children as a soldier is illegal, rebel groups and armies still use children as soldiers. Many times in today’s world children are abducted from their homes and these children mainly come out of the country’s poorest villages and cities. A village may be forced to give a required number of their children to the army or group and in return they would be safe from any attacks by that army or group; a tactic that was made popular by the Lord’s Resistance Army which, is a rebel group that originated in Uganda that is known for using children as soldiers. Some children would be forced by their parents to volunteer because the parents could afford to pay for the food and shelter of their children, so if the children went into one of these armies then the child would at least be able to have food and water. Sometimes, the group will say that if the child joins the army then the child will be granted protection, food, and even payment but, most of the time the children aren’t given everything they were told they would get.
When soldiers are going to go and get new child soldier recruits they many times make the child kill a member of their own family so then they would not be able to back to their family. “Once recruited, children undergo varying degrees of indoctrination, often verging on the brutal…..Some rebel groups in Cambodia and Mozambique turned children into fierce warriors by subjecting them to a brief period of terror and physical abuse—’socializing’ them into violence.” Since many of these children have been outlawed by their village, have been brutal beaten both physically and mentally as well as being drugged multiple times, they are able to go to different villages and do the same thing to other children and recruit them because they have been brainwashed. Girls are used as well but not found as often in the gun fights like the boys. The girls are instead mainly used as cooks and fetching water for the soldiers. Unfortunately the young girls are very vulnerable there for they are often used for sexual pleasures by the soldiers. (“Children as Soldiers.”Children as Soldiers. UNICEF, n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2014).
The effects on the children after what they have done and been through will stick with them longer than it took their physical scars to heal and for them to recover from their drug addictions. Many of these children don’t think anything of the violent acts they commit, whether that is beating someone or killing someone they do not see what they are doing is wrong. This can damage the child’s brain for the rest of their life because when they were committing all of the violence, their brain was in its developing stages. Even when the children that were one of the child soldiers have escaped or set free, the children cannot return back to the their villages and families because they have been outlawed by their community. These children have been outlawed from their village because when the children were being recruited for the army they had to kill a family member of theirs in order to join. A good amount of the girls that are child soldiers can’t return to their villages because while they were a child soldier they became pregnant from one of the soldiers and now have a baby, which their village would not allow inside the village. Almost all of the child soldiers have little or no education since they missed so many years of school in the early years of their life. Since they do not have much of an education they do not have a very promising future ahead of them so they will go back to these groups that originally recruited them so that they will at least be able to have food and water.
“In June 2013 the UN set a goal to have no child soldiers anywhere in the world by 2016.There are eight Government armies listed for the recruitment and use of children and six of them have already committed to making their armies childÂfree. In 2012, South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed action plans with the United Nations. The previous year, Afghanistan and Chad made similar commitments. Discussions initiated with the Governments of Yemen and Sudan are expected to lead to action plans in the near future.” Even though most of these governments have outlawed the use of children as soldiers, rebel groups within these countries will still continue to use children as soldiers, (“Child Soldiers.” Child Soldiers. War Child, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2014).
The Child Soldiers International is a group of people from around the world that are working together to make sure that all children under the age of 18 are allowed to live in peace, have their rights and grow up in an area where they can thrive and reach their full potential. They believe that if this is to happen then children must be protected from being in any form of military and stay out of the wars. Child Soldiers International says that a child is anyone under the age of 18 years old; also these children must be protected because they are in their most important developmental stages of their lives, where they develop what is morally right or wrong and maturity both physically and psychologically. This international group has set an international law stating that a child under the age of 18 cannot be recruited to be in any form of military or armed group.
The use of children through both civil wars and country wars has been obvious over the years. Many times the leaders of these groups and armies give the children false hopes and promises, the children are drugged to kill other people and even kill their own family. Even though using children as soldiers is looked down upon people in our world don’t see the harm it does to the children, they just look at how the children will help them. “Despite this, in the last ten years over two million children have been killed, over one million orphaned, over six million have been left seriously injured or permanently disabled and over 10 million have been diagnosed with psychological trauma.” There are two arguments when it comes down to the topic of whether child soldiers should be held responsible for their violent acts, (“Child Soldiers: Invisible Children – Child Soldiers- Defining the Topic.” Child Soldiers: Invisible Children. Weebly, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2014).
One side of the argument says that child soldiers should not be help responsible for their actions. They should not be held accountable because many of them did not have a choice of whether or not they wanted to become a child soldier. Also while they were child soldiers they were brainwashed through the use of drugs. The drugs would allow the child soldier to commit violent acts and not think acts were wrong. Some children would join to get food and water but never would have thought that they would have to do any actual fighting.
The other side of the argument is that child soldiers should be held responsible for the violent acts they have committed. Some believe that child criminals and child soldiers are the same thing in a way and should be treated the same and be prosecuted. Child soldiers have been accountable for some of the most disturbing, brutal, and violent acts during a time of war, for example raping and killing large amounts of innocent people in villages and cities. Child soldiers are still being put in jail and put on trial, even though International Criminal Court Article 26 states that anyone under the age of 18 may not be prosecuted in a court of law. It would be a lie to say that all child soldiers are forced to fight because some child soldiers join the fight because they want to avenge a family members death. If a child is not forced to become a soldier but joins by free will then that child should be taken into custody because this child understood what they were doing and that it was wrong. Some believe that it is not right to the victims of the child soldiers if the children are just allowed to walk free. If child soldiers did not have to be prosecuted for their crimes then their leaders would most likely make the children do all the crimes against others since the children will not be charged with anything.
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In our world today everyone has different opinions about whether or not child soldiers should be held accountable for their violent acts. The Children and Justice During and in the Aftermath of Armed Conflict report says: “If a child under the age of 15 is considered too young to fight, then he or she must also be considered too young to be held criminally responsible for serious violations of IHL while associated with armed forces or armed groups.” Children are recruited so much to be a soldier because they are very easily manipulated and intimidated. The children are to young to understand what the consequences of their actions can lead to, in other words they haven’t developed much mental maturity. All of the drugs that are used on the children does a lot of mental damage because their frontal lobes which controls what decisions to make is being significantly damaged and will not develop right. Radhika Coomaraswamy, SRSG for child soldiers, said, “If minor children who have committed serious war crimes are not prosecuted, this could be an incentive for their commanders to delegate to them the dirtiest orders, aiming at impunity,” ( “Humanitarian News and Analysis.” IRINnews. IRIN, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014).
In my opinion, I believe that child soldiers should not be held accountable for the violent acts. I have learned that child soldiers are many times kidnapped from their families and forced to kill a family member and are given many false hopes from their leaders. The child soldiers are drugged and brainwashed so that they can go around and kill innocent people as well as recruit more children like themselves. I believe that any person, especially a child, should not be prosecuted for their violent acts because they were not aware of whether what they were doing was right or wrong. I believe there is a difference in a child criminal and a child soldier because a child criminal is making a decision themselves and are completely aware of that they are doing, while a child soldier does not. For example, lets say a 10 year old boy kills his baby brother by drowning him in the tub. The 10 year old boy would be considered a child criminal and should be prosecuted because the boy was not forced to kill his baby brother. Now if a child soldier has killed another person then I do not think they should be persecuted because they were forced to commit the violent act. Instead the child soldier should have to go through rehab. The Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and Disarmament is a much better way of helping children recover from their violent acts as a soldier so that they can go back out into the real world. Rehab programs have been proven to be successful when it comes to people recovering from war. A good example of someone that was a child soldier in Sierra Leone and went through rehab when he was rescued is Ishmael Beah, the author of A Long Way Gone. “At age sixteen, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF, and through the help of the staff at his rehabilitation center, he learned how to forgive himself, to regain his humanity, and, finally, to heal,” (Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print).
A child soldier has a very rough and confusing life. A child soldier begins without having a family or village anymore because they have been outlawed due to killing a family member. The children are drugged and are forced to commit the most brutal acts of violence such as, raping and killing innocent people. Some say that child soldiers should be prosecuted due to the violent acts they have committed but, most of these children did not even understand what they were doing when committing the crimes. No child should have to kill to survive, if they try to escape the horror that surrounds them then they are killed. Our world today needs to make a huge effort to stop the use of children as soldiers because it is not right to ruin a child’s life for something they do not even understand.
Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.
“Cambridge Journals Online – The Journal of Modern African Studies – Abstract – Children of War: Child Soldiers as Victims and Participants in the Sudan Civil War by C. Ryan London: I.B. Tauris, 2012. Pp. 320. £59.50 (hbk).” Cambridge Journals Online – The Journal of Modern African Studies – Abstract – Children of War: Child Soldiers as Victims and Participants in the Sudan Civil War by C. Ryan London: I.B. Tauris, 2012. Pp. 320. £59.50 (hbk). Cambridge University Press, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014.”Child Soldiers.” Child Soldiers. War Child, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2014.
“Child Soldiers: Invisible Children – Child Soldiers- Defining the Topic.” Child Soldiers: Invisible Children. Weebly, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2014.
Dixon, Robyn. “Former Sierra Leone Child Soldier Helps Other Victims.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 30 Aug. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2014.
“Government Forces Commit to End Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers.” United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the SecretaryGeneral for Children and Armed Conflict. United Nations, 17 June 2013. Web. 24 Jan. 2014.
“Humanitarian News and Analysis.” IRINnews. IRIN, n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014.
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