Child soldiering in relation to human trafficking

Authored by: Gus Waschefort

Routledge Handbook of Human Trafficking

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138892064
eBook ISBN: 9781315709352
Adobe ISBN:


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During the past decade, the issue of child soldiering has captured the imagination of the Western world. Blockbuster films, songs, books, and news coverage have played a major role in creating the Western image of the ‘child soldier’. Similarly, it is only during the past two and a half decades that this issue has received substantial attention from academics or civil society. 1 This is true notwithstanding the fact that child soldiering is a centuries-old phenomenon. Given the relative newness of academic scholarship on child soldiering, a number of unsupported contentions and assumptions have surfaced that either paint an inaccurate picture of the phenomenon, or fail to tell the entire story. One such assumption is that the abhorrence of child soldiering in modern Western mores is such that this concept has come to represent the sum total of the identity and suffering of such children. However, the child soldier is in fact a doubly vulnerable person. Judge Odio Benito’s separate opinion in the Lubanga case indicates well that children suffer from a range of other rights violations in the ordinary course of events when they are used or recruited in armed conflict. 2 While her legal reasoning is unconvincing, 3 her judgment serves as a reminder that we are not dealing with ‘child soldiers’; we are dealing with children who have fallen victim to unlawful recruitment or use in armed conflict. Invariably, these children are, at the same time, children who have also fallen victim to other serious rights violations, including sexual violence and, in the present context, trafficking. I do not use the word ‘invariably’ lightly. Article 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which provision prohibits child soldiering, is the only article of the CRC for which the age threshold for protection is reduced from younger than 18 to younger than 15. 4 It is hard to imagine any circumstance where a person younger than 18 is afforded all their rights in terms of the CRC while serving in armed forces or armed groups. 5

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