Any individual under age 18 who belongs to armed group or forces, whether or not there is an armed conflict, is considered to be a child soldier. This is defined by the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child which defines a child as any person under the age of 18 (Small Arms Survey 204).
Children do not need necessarily be combatants to be seen as members of or attached armed groups. They may do other functions, both military and non-military, involving spying, sabotage, training, acting as couriers, decoys, guards, sexual slaves, forced labor and others (Small Arms Survey 204).
Whereas some children are recruited voluntarily, others are forcibly recruited and may be serving against their will. The line between voluntary and forced recruitment is blurred. This paper discusses literature on the type of intolerance displayed by child soldiers, how child soldiers appear to view their own methods, and why intolerant groups (child soldiers) react so strongly to the group it assaults (Machel 40).
What type Of Intolerance are Displayed due to child soldiering?
Children may be subjected to numerous political, social and economic challenges that offer them with little alternative than to join armed forces voluntarily. Resultant consequences of the child soldier include psychological trauma, death, drug addiction, social alienation, disability, pregnancy, sexuality transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, and others (Hamm 260).
Most countries allow children under the age of 18 to participate in war which violates international conventions that safeguard the rights of children. Child soldiers get exposed to mental and physical problems during war because of their participation in direct combat or by living in or near war zones. The use of children as child soldiers presents serious human rights violations as these children get exposed to death during conflict. This deprives them of their basic right to life.
Other children are denied their liberty, that is warring groups forcibly recruit them, separating them from their families against their wills. Majority of these children are tortured and treated inhumanely by warring groups with which they serve. Some are forced to murder or torture others causing them severe psychological effects. All these children are deprived of their normal childhood (Graca 57).
How does intolerant group (Child Soldiers) appear to View its own methods?
By involving themselves in war that destroys society, child soldiers view the actions to have victimized their society and view themselves to have taken part in its destruction.
As a result of these actions, society develops intense resentment over the way these children had treated them. It is not easy to point out reason why and how in many countries children are involved in armed conflicts. Many countries continue to enlist by force into their armed forces in spite of international agreements (Small Arms Survey 205).
Statistics in the number of children used as soldiers vary from country to country. In Mozambique, for instance, between 8,000 and 10,000 children were abducted in mid 1980s by the Mozambique National resistance and compelled to be child soldiers. This armed group forced recruits to murder people they knew so that community becomes aware who the killers were.
The aim was to isolate these children from their society and ensure their loyalty to their abductors. These actions negated the possibility of affected children to reintegrate back to their communities. Therefore, child soldiers for these reasons appear to view its methods of violence to be subject to the whims of their abductors (Machel 72).
Presently, it is a widespread phenomenon to find children being used as child soldiers. The media has highlighted small boys and girls battling in many war fronts. In addition, several individual and organizations working with rights groups have made the problem known. Many people today are more aware of child exploitation than ever before.
Child rights and international human Rights organizations have estimated about 300,000 children under age of 18 to be involved in armed conflicts around the world (Hamm 259). Wanton abuse of human dignity and human rights of these children have been reported during the process of recruitment or abduction. They get exposed to permanent physical and mental incapacitation or risk their lives in fighting.
There are a number of factors which impact children’s decision to become or not to become a child soldier. These factors include existence of war and conflict, deterioration of civil society, erosion of traditional values and family structures, scarcity of educational facilities and basic social amenities, adverse poverty, and others (Graca 62).
Why does Intolerant Group react so strongly to the Group it Attacks?
Child soldiers react strongly to the groups for a number of reasons: 1) when being recruited, child soldiers are taught to take orders without questioning. Their personal feelings and actions are subordinate to their commanders.
They are bound by the subjective factors of the group. Their reactions are dependent on the nature of the leadership of armed groups, background and orientation. Many of them are subjected to commit atrocities against their wills; 2) children join armed conflicts for revenge purposes.
They get recruited to kill, rape, loot and commit other despicable vices because their dear ones were killed or maimed; 2) intolerant groups (child soldiers) also react strongly to groups they assault because of the neglect, abuses, exploitation, inhuman and degrading treatments they have been exposed to by society.
It mainly involves individual factors of child abuse in a family, need to have a sense of belonging, heroism, and revenge. They live with pent up emotions which they aggressively relieve when they assault members of society; and others (Hamm 262).
Armed conflicts affect the normal lives of children. War lives many children to grow without essential education. Young girls get impregnated due to sexual assaults (Rape). These horrific scenes attract children to armed groups for revenge missions. Many of these children have witnessed their village colleagues come back with weapons and terrorize their parents and even loot their property.
Other children get recruited willingly because of the benefits they see. Joining armed groups is viewed as a license to protect oneself and locality. When recruited, they are supplied with weapons, clothes and food. The arms provide them with power and advantage for protecting their families. Other children join armed groups as a result of idleness because during conflicts, there is no school or work for them to attend to (UNICEF 201).
In summary, children in war zones lack education, disrespect people and forcibly take things that do not belong to them. War has negative effects on behavior of children. It makes them turn to negative vices such as drug abuse and wondering around doing nothing. It makes them lack regard to their parents. Children also join armed groups due to lack of food and security during the war. They are promised to own what they forcibly acquire.
Owning a gun for these children gives them power to get food and security. They loot property and kill many through ambushes. Scarcity or insufficient basic needs cause frustration and discontent among marginalized people including children. This can fuel violence in society where social and economic disparities are wide (Machel 112).
Graca, M. The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, New York: United Nations, 1996.
Hamm, Smandych, R. Cultural Imperialism. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2005.
Machel, G. The Impact of War on Children. London: Hurst & Co. Ltd, 2001
Small Arms Survey. Small Arms Survey 2010. Chicago: Lakeview Press, 2010.
UNICEF. The State of the World’s Children 2000, Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press