Tuesday, 3 April 2012
CASE 397 - child soldiers
Throughout history and in many cultures, children have been extensively involved in military campaigns even when such practices were supposedly against cultural morals.
The earliest mentions of minors being involved in wars come from antiquity. It was customary for youths in the Mediterranean basin to serve as aides, charioteers and armor bearers to adult warriors. Examples of this practice can be found in the Bible (such as David's service to King Saul), in Hittite and Egyptian art, and in Greek mythology (such as the story of Hercules and Hylas), philosophy and literature.
Also in a practice dating back to antiquity, children were routinely taken on campaign, together with the rest of a military man's family, as part of the baggage. This exposed them to harm from rearguard attacks, such as the one at the battle of Agincourt, where the retainers and children of the English army were massacred by the French.
The Romans also made use of youths in war, though it was understood that it was unwise and cruel to use children in war, and Plutarch implies that regulations required youths to be at least sixteen years of age.
In medieval Europe, young boys from about twelve years of age were used as military aides ("squires"), though in theory their role in actual combat was limited. The so-called Children's Crusade in 1212 recruited thousands of children as untrained soldiers under the assumption that divine power would enable them to conquer the enemy, although none of the children actually entered combat; according to the legend, they were instead sold into slavery. While most scholars no longer believe that the Children's Crusade consisted solely, or even mostly, of children, it nonetheless exemplifies an era in which the entire family took part in a war effort.
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.
Key facts and statistics about child soldiers
There are an estimated 300,000 child soldiers in the world today.
It is estimated that 40% of all child soldiers are girls. They are often used as 'wives' (i.e. sex slaves) of the male combatants.
Many rebel groups use child soldiers to fight the government, but some governments also use child soldiers in armed conflict.
Not all children take part in active combat. Some are also used as porters, cooks and spies.
As part of their recruitment, children are sometimes forced to kill or maim a family member - thus breaking the bonds with their community and making it difficult for them to return home.