Children that are actively participating in an armed conflict are called child soldiers. There are different definitions. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that this affects all who are 15 years or younger, who directly take part in hostilities. The convention dates from 1989. There is an annex protocol, which raises this to 18 years of age. It dates from 2001. It says that regular troop members must be 18 or older, and those who join voluntarily must be 14 or older. Some groups say that people who help armed groups but do not fight, and that are under 18, are also child soldiers. UNICEF, terre des hommes, and Amnesty International also have this view: Everyone who is a combattant, or who helps, and is under 18, is a child soldier. The Cape Town Principles have an even wider definition: Porters, informants, cooks, and girls who have been forcefully prostituted are child soldiers, too. In that way, they get the status of combatants. On the one hand, this legalizes fighting against them. On the other, this gives them rights when they are captured. They have to be treated according to the Geneva Conventions as prisoners of war.
War crime change
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court says that recruiting people below the age of 15 is a war crime, and must be prosecuted. Thomas Lubanga was the first person to be tried for this crime at the court in Den Haag. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison and left prison in 2020.
According to a UN source, 300,000 children were actively participating in armed conflicts, in 1996.
It is estimated that between 10% and 30% of child soldiers are girls. Some estimates say that over 40% of the child soldier population are girls. Of the verified cases presented in the 2023 UN Secretary-General report, girls make up 12.3% of all child soldiers recruited or used by armed groups.
Social groups they are from change
Children who are recruited are often from poorer parts of the population. Because of the conflict, they may have been separated from their parents. They are looking for safety and shelter. Often they are refugees. Also, children are often easier to convince than adults
- Wikisource:Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court#Article 8 - War crimes
- "Impact of Armed Conflict on Children" (pdf). United Nations. 1996.
- "I wanted to take revenge". theguardian.com. July 2006. Retrieved 21 August 2023.
The usual view of girl soldiers - who make up between 10% and 30% of some child armies
- Whitman, Shelly (2012). The Routledge Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect. New York: Routledge Publishing. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-415-60075-0.
- "4 out of 10 child soldiers are girls". un.org. 12 February 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2023.