Monday, April 9, 2012

Understanding Child Soldiering

The Issue and Its Ramifications

By Bayti Chen
Bayti Chen, a third year student at Albany Law School, is the Vice President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association. She has interned at the New York State Assembly as a Legislative Assistant to Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
Ms. Chen's paper addresses how children become soldiers and what efforts are needed to save them from losing their childhood to war. She prepared the paper for Professor Grahn-Farley's course, International Child's Rights, Spring 2011.

Wars have transpired since the existence of human life. Originally, adults were the soldiers of war, but since World War II, children began participating in wars and armed conflicts. A recurring pressing matter and trend is the use of child soldiers in armed conflicts. A child is defined as anyone under the age of eighteen. The meaning of “child soldier” has a broader definition than the typical definition of “soldiers” we know today, namely those who join the armed forces and handle machineries and/or are in direct confrontation with enemies. Child soldiers are “associated with any kind of regular or irregular armed group” that participates in all kinds of activities ranging from messengers, porters, sexual purposes, cooks, to front line combatant battles with land mines, bombs, and guns. They are not limited to just fighting in war or using militia weaponry.

Despite the vast amount of laws pertaining to child soldiers and its prevention, there remains the question of why are children still participating in armed conflicts? A majority of the countries that actively use child soldiers are particularly prominent in third world countries. As of today, it was found that more than twenty countries or territories actively involve children in armed conflicts both in government forces and non-state armed groups. Some countries includes Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Columbia, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Rwanda, Thailand and Uganda. The underlying causes for the use of child soldiers and the appeal for enlistment ranges from poverty issues and a sense of belonging, to threats of force and death.
* Citations to references in this introduction are available in the paper.
To read the entire paper, open HERE.