Children in poor and war-torn countries are often trafficking victims. They are lured from their homes with promises of making money in factories or at farms. Sometimes they are kidnapped. And sometimes, they are recruited for war.
Tom Burridge of BBC News reports on the war in South Sudan, and the prevalence of “recruiting” young boys to fight. On a normal school day, Burridge says that more than 100 boys are kidnapped from their classroom and told they must fight in their country’s civil war.
It estimates that there are 11,000 children serving in both the rebel, and government armies.
We met Stephen, and three other boys with similar stories, who are all aged between 12 and 17. One boy recalled how they “were forced to train, and if we didn’t want to do it, we were beaten heavily”.
“When we were moving and boys got sick and died they would just be left where they fell,” said one of the boys, aged 14.
If the boys manage to escape, they are treated as deserters, and face being shot.
Some schools employ security guards or use gates in attempts to keep soldiers out, but many schools are now simply abandoned, so as not to give soldiers the chance to grab so many young people at once.
The children are used to search for food, water and firewood, but the White Army (one of the rebel groups) is known for sending children into battle. In a country where more than half the population is under the age of 15, children are of great value to the soldiers.
According to the United Nations, human trafficking is defined as
…the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
Using children as soldiers is not only sadistic, it is a crime, a crime that not only endangers children, but robs them of their childhood.
Read “Child soldiers still being recruited in South Sudan” at BBC News.