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The use of children as soldiers has been universally condemned as abhorrent, hortative and unacceptable. Despite such a move, a tumultuous multitude of children have fought and died in conflicts around the world. Child soldiers live under harsh conditions, are deprived of food, education and healthcare, all of which are essential for their growth and well-being. They are almost always treated brutally, subjected to beatings and humiliating treatment. Punishments for mistakes or desertion are often very severe.
Girl soldiers are subject to the risk of rape, sexual harassment and abuse, and are also involved in combat and other tasks. Instances in Northern Uganda show that young girls were impregnated by male soldiers, and were made to strap their children on their backs while they took up arms against the enemy forces. The problem of children being recruited as soldiers plagues developed nations too. Largely, the world's child soldiers are involved in a variety of armed political groups, which include government-backed paramilitary groups, militias and self-defense units operating in many areas. Besides these, armed groups opposed to central government rule, groups composed of ethnic religious and other minorities and clan-based or factional groups fighting governments and each other to defend territory and resources amass children among their forces.
These children face such ghastly consequences, that things are only a trade off between death and a life that is worse than death. What can we expect from our future? How can we put this to an end? What will stop this evil? Is a legal instrument enough?
© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1227/Kate Holt, Somalia, 2011; On 27 July, Asad [NAME CHANGED] (left) holds a gun in a reception centre for former soldiers from the rebel Al-Shabaab group, in Mogadishu, the capital.