Children in militias, yes, that’s right. It is estimated that there are nearly 300,000 child soldiers utilized in more than 30 countries worldwide either as combatants or as auxiliaries.
Nepal is in a bad book as far as the incidences of child recruitment are concerned. Although there is no hard data on the number of child soldiers in Nepal, evidences suggest that the phenomenon increased since the collapse of a cease-fire in 2003.
The decade-long violent conflict caused worst human tragedy in the country’s modern history. Children and women have been hit worst during the blood-spattered conflict.
Most children taking part in the armed conflict are believed to be between 14 and 18 years of age, but the use of even younger children cannot be ruled out. Children are also used as porters, messengers, sentries and spies and are involved in cultural or propaganda activities. The Maoists are said to have formed ‘a youth wing to reach out to school children.’
If we unveil the grim statistics
1. More than 30% of Maoist forces were children.
2. Around 10% of the rebel soldiers were children under 18 years old.
3. 700 children were recruited over the past seven days.
4. Many children, some as young as 13, were taken into custody by security forces in connection with the insurgency and some remained unaccounted for.
5. Human Rights Commission claimed that at least 25% of the Maoist fighters were children under the age of 18.
6. It claimed that about 400 child soldiers had died in the country’s civil war.
Poverty fuels their decision to join the squadron.
In addition, technological developments and the proliferation of weapons, especially small arms, have made semi-automatic rifles light enough to be used and simple enough to be stripped and reassembled by a 10-year-old child.
However, some children volunteer to join up; perhaps in order to survive, to prove their manhood, yielding to peer pressure, inspired by a culture of violence, or driven by a desire to avenge atrocities committed against their family or community.
The authorities must endorse international humanitarian law and human rights treaties regarding protection of children in armed conflict and take all apt procedures to demobilize those already in armed ranks and arrange safe and dignified passage for rapid demobilization and rehabilitation with professional care, protection, counseling, compensation and recovery package.