“Under international law, the term "child soldier" applies to any person under age eighteen who either has been recruited or used in hostilities by armed forces”. (Sinners or Saints). Today, human rights groups estimate that there are 300,000 child soldiers worldwide. Based on the current number of on going armed conflicts in the continent, Africa has the largest number of these child soldiers. Some other regions where child soldiers are also used include Chad, Somalia, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. The average age of these children is twelve to fourteen, but there are many as young as seven. How and why are these children recruited and what can be done to end it?
Most child soldiers are members of non-state armed groups. The majority of these children are recruited by force. They are abducted from their schools and villages at gunpoint and coerced through threats of violence against themselves or their family. Child recruits may be forced to participate in violent and often lethal acts against members of their own family as a way of permanently alienating them. The use of drugs as a means of control is prevalent. With drug use the children become desensitized to the death and horror around them. A false sense of courage or strength and less sensitivity to pain can also be a consequence of drug addiction. Brainwashing is also a common method of control. Child soldiers are manipulated into believing that they are fighting for a just cause.
Another group of child soldier are those who volunteer. Many children see joining as their only means of survival. “The 6 dominant reasons provided by children who voluntarily joined armed groups are in declining order: material needs, ideology, fascination for the army, desire to leave family, desire for vengeance and fear”. (Brits). In war torn areas of the world, where food may be scarce, villages or homes destroyed and parents killed or imprisoned, becoming a soldier may be the only way of securing regular meals or having access to medical care. They may see safety within the ranks of other soldiers and feel a sense of family and belonging. Some children take up arms as a means of revenge for the slaughter of their own family by rival militant groups. Young children who have never known any other way of life may join militant groups because they do not know they have other choices. When it would seem that their only choices are taking up arms and joining a militant group or illness and starvation, they may simply be choosing the lesser of two evils.
“Children may seem to go to war "voluntarily" even though they may have actually been coerced or sold out to the armed group by their own poor and hungry parents”. (Tiefenbrun). There are also many child soldiers that were encouraged by their parents or family members to join. Some of these parents or family members were child soldiers themselves. Daughters without good marriage prospects may also be convinced to join by their parents because the...