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Children and violence: an introductory, international and interdisciplinary approach
Children and violence: an introductory, international and interdisciplinary approach

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4.3 Children and the armed forces

The dual role of children as both perpetrators and victims of violence becomes very clear when looking at child soldiers. Despite international treaties, thousands of children worldwide fight in armies and paramilitary forces. Article 38 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that no child under the age of fifteen should fight; supplementary international treaties, such as the 1999 Maputo Declaration on Child Soldiers and the 2000 Optional Protocol to the UNCRC on children in armed conflict, state that children under eighteen should not be involved as combatants in armed conflict. However, in 1999 Amnesty International claimed that there were at least 300,000 children under eighteen actively involved in armed conflict in countries as diverse as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Uganda, Sri Lanka and Burma (Amnesty International, 1999). The increase in smaller, lighter weapons has made it easier for children to go into combat and fight alongside adults. Many others are not actual combatants but are used to plant or clear mines, as reconnaissance, as bearers and suppliers to the front line or as general ancillary workers, cooking, cleaning, keeping guard or delivering food.