The Tragedy of Child Soldiers

By George Bryjak

Over the last 20 years the international community has tried to sharply reduce if not eliminate the use of child soldiers. Article 38 of the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that states take all feasible measures to ensure that individuals under 15 years of age do not take part in direct hostilities.

By August 2004, 77 countries had ratified a protocol, including 58 states which now maintain a "straight-18" position excluding the recruitment of children under 18 years of age.

However, not all signatories to the agreement have withdrawn children from combat. In particular, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) -- two of the nations with the largest number of child soldiers in this category -- have failed to act on their treaty obligations.

War is a brutal and dehumanizing experience. It's especially tragic when a society's most vulnerable members are not only killed, but transformed into killers.

George Bryjak is a professor of sociology at the University of San Diego.

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2007

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2007, page 26. Some rights reserved.

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