Have you ever had kids? I did and I do. Theoretically most parents will tell you in one way or the other, the children may be seen by them, as a kind of a burden. And in many ways this is healthy. Parenting is no milkshake, no matter where you live. Attitude towards children and their upbringing, has changed over the years multiple times. Technically, up until Convention on the Rights of the Child, there was no world-wide definition of what children are and their rights. That’s 1989 AD!
The focus and the question, I wanted to ask myself about children, was about their potential involvement in armed conflicts. As a parent I am concerned, whether my child could be pulled into a war. I live in the Western society, with high standard of living. Have no idea how it would be, if my children had no parents or we would be living in a world of conflict. Like some of these countries. Separately, a whooping 46 countries can, under approved laws, still use children (a human being below the age of 18 years) in armed conflicts. Some interesting ones would be Canada (enlistment age starts at 16), India (16,5) or UK (16).
Hunger, poverty and some beguiling visions of patriotism, are the usual factors, why children go to war. Would I send a 16-year old to serve in the military? Don’t know, not mine definitely. Would I allow a 10-year old or younger? Definitely not!
Throughout the history the ‘recruitment age’ also differed. First, we can look at the Spartan example, where children were being made accustomed to thieving, fighting and to various other survival skills. Rome would look a lot more civilised, with 16, as the actual recruitment minimal age. Talking about human beings, close or about the manhood age of 13-14, taking up weapons, would sport quite an outrage on the Roman forums (although it was occasionally happening).
The worst examples in the modern era, would probably be coming from the Great War. There are examples of children as young as 8, joining the war efforts. 12-year old’s were pretty commonplace. The other bad example would be the conflict with Franco in Spain, where using children under the age of 16, in fascist militias, was pretty commonplace. Topping example then would be World War 2, where children were still commonplace on wage-rolls of any participant of the conflict. The discussions spun by these wars, started the global discussion on creating basic human right definition for children.
So how does it look like today?
The first myth, I was trying to attack, with a stereotyped picture of an African warlord, is that child soldiers exist only in Africa. I have de-bunked this myth, in the beginning of this article, by providing enlistment age for some of the more developed countries. The truth is only 50% of the overall count of child soldiers are enlisted in Africa. The main reason being, the on-going exploit of this continent of the Western capitalism (and I will not write another communist manifesto here, just stating a fact).
The other interesting factor, is that close to 40% of the child soldiers are girls. There is another scary factor here. They suffer extreme abuse, although a lot of them have volunteered ‘for a better cause’.
Before we get to a conclusion, just wanted to point out, there is one country in the world, that does not officially recognise the international definition of the child and their rights. It is USA. To be fair, they signed the optional protocols on not using children in war and protection from other abuse of the children. But why it did not happen, worries (and it is not a quote from any Islamic state):
Opposition to ratification comes from some religious groups. These, along with many political conservatives, claim that the Convention conflicts with the United States Constitution because in the original language of the Constitution “treaties” referred only to international relations (military alliances, trade, etc.) and not domestic policies. This has apparently played a significant role in the non-ratification of the treaty so far.
This technically means they don’t have basic definition of children agreed with the rest of the world, but oppose to using them in wars or other abuse. Is it why they agree to separate immigrants children from parents?
After reading all that, I am happy, I am not even close to discussing my children involvement in any conflicts.
None of us would like to get into a situation, whereas parents of multiple countries are (where i.e. children are abducted to fight wars). Your ‘burdens’ would be taken, leaving only tears and sorrow. Nobody wants to be there. Let’s give them an extra hug tonight.
Note: a very interesting link on children in conflicts.