Child soldiers are any children under the age of 18 who are recruited by a state or non-state armed group and used as fighters, cooks, suicide bombers, human shields, messengers, spies, or for sexual purposes.
In the last 13 years, the use of child soldiers has spread to almost every region of the world and to every armed conflict. Though an exact number is impossible to define, tens of thousands of child soldiers are illegally serving in armed conflict around the world, and the number is always increasing.
Some children are under the age of 10 when they are forced to serve.
Two-thirds of states confirm that under-18 enrollment should be banned to prohibit forced child soldiers, as well as 16- and 17-year-old armed force volunteers.
Children who are poor, displaced from their families, have limited access to education, or live in a combat zone are more likely to be forcibly recruited.
Children who are not forced to be soldiers volunteer themselves because they feel societal pressure and are under the impression that volunteering will provide a form of income, food, or security, and willingly join the group.
In the last 2 years, 20 states have been reported to have child soldiers in government, government-affiliated, and non-state armed groups. Additionally, 40 states still have minimum age recruitment requirements under 18 years.
Girls make up an estimated 10 to 30 percent of child soldiers used for fighting and other purposes. They are especially vulnerable when it comes to sexual violence.
The following countries have reported use of child soldiers since 2011: Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Thailand, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and more.
Despite a government agreement in the District of Chad to demobilize the recruitment of child soldiers, there were between 7,000 and 10,000 children under 18 serving in combat and fulfilling other purposes in 2007.
The recruitment of child soldiers breaks several human rights laws. While children who have committed crimes as soldiers are looked upon more leniently, those who perform crimes voluntarily — without drugs or forcible threats — are subject to justice under the protection of the international juvenile justice standards.
Organize an awareness campaign at your high school for child soldiers. GO