Introduction: safety by enlisting them into armed forces.


            Of the 7.2 billion inhabitants in the world during 20141, 2.2 billion were
children.2 This brings upon the
question: who are classified as children?
Most believe those under the age of 12 are children, however, that is not the case.
According to UNICEF, “a ‘child’is a person below the age of 18.”3 In an progressing world where
human rights are being advocated and promoted, countries that are not as developed
tend to lack around the concept of human rights. Specifically, the rights of
children. Countries that are economically depressed, such as Sierra Leone and
Myanmar, often resort to the use of children as soldiers during a time of
conflict. Due to the lack of adult soldiers or the mere simplicity of luring a
child to participate in combat, armed forces, whether state or non-state, forcibly
recruit children to act as soldiers.4 Children are still being enrolled
as soldiers and is a prominent issue yet to be resolved.

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How/why children become soldiers:

            A key distinction of
how a child becomes a soldier is between forced and other several factors
leading to a child to join an armed force by themselves. According to Children
and Armed Conflict, an organization in the UN, children are either “abducted and beaten into submission”5 or
are lead to join armed forces due to harsh circumstances. These would include
poverty, little to none education, and children are easier to manipulate at a
young age.2  To begin with, families living in
underdeveloped nations typically live in poverty, especially if the nation is
undergoing a civil conflict. An armed force may promise beneficial goods, such
as food or money, in hopes to obtain the parents approval to give up their
child in return for a meal and shelter.2
While these parents want their children to be fed and living in a house, they
are risking their child’s safety by enlisting them into armed forces. Another
factor would be the lack of education acquired by children. Since most of these
countries that use child soldiers are under a repressive, controlling
government or merely most citizens cannot afford an education, a child does not
know more than what they are told by those older, typically a commander from
the armed force trying to enlist them. This correlates to the manipulation
aspect of recruitment. The younger a child is, the easier it is to get them to
do whatever one pleases. This means that if a parent gives up a child to the
armed force, a child would be more likely to feel betrayed, seeking for an
adult figure to care for them. This is when a commander would manipulate a
child, pretending to be a caring figure, in order for the child to trust the
commander, thus doing whatever they want. Lastly, there is the most used tactic
to get a child to become a soldier, abduction or forced recruitment. Due to the
chaos of an internal conflict, such as the Civil War in Sierra Leone and
internal conflict in Myanmar, children were vulnerable to abduction, as they
were separated from their family. According to the Children and Armed Conflict:

In times of war, children
are too often abducted by parties to conflict and subjected to brutal
treatment. In many cases, the abduction of children is the precursor to other
grave violations. Children can be abducted to be killed or maimed, to become
victims of sexual violence or to be recruited to the ranks of an army or armed

Beaten and coerced into
fighting along the armed forced, children are left mentally vulnerable and are
forced to do whatever the officers command. The children are forced to obey
because if they do not, they will be punished more. This correlates to the fact
that the children do not have access to an education, live in poverty, and are
easy to manipulate. They simply do not have any other choice to join the army
since they do not have an education to rely on, no money, and have no maturity
for what is good.


Sierra Leone and their usage of child soldiers:

            Sierra Leone, a country in West
Africa, was home to a Civil War during 1991 to 2002.7 Between the government of
Sierra Leone, under Joseph Saidu Momoh, against rebel forces, prominently the
Revolutionary United Front (RUF).8 This rebel group had
committed many vicious acts, including
assembling “entire families,
who were gunned down in the street, children and adults had their limbs
hacked off with machetes, and girls and young women were taken to rebel bases
and sexually abused.”5 This was not the
worst of the RUF as they had “systematically murdered, mutilated, and raped
civilians,”5 along with their usage of
children as soldiers. Using brutality and other various tactics against the
military and civilians, they had also introduced children to the war, enlisting
them to fight against the state army or the rebel forces.5 In 1999, approximately 40 to 50 percent of
the 15,000-total force of the rebels’ army was made up of children, whereas
one-fifth of 25,000 soldiers were children on the government’s army,






5 The
UN. “Root Causes of Child Recruitment,” Children
and Armed Conflict,

6 The
UN, “Abductions,” Children and Armed

7 Human
Rights Watch, “The Armed Conflict in Sierra Leone,” Human Rights Watch, April 11, 2012,

8 Human
Rights Watch, “Shocking War Crimes in Sierra Leone,” Human Rights Watch, June 24, 1999,


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