In his first report to the United Nations Security Council on the situation of children and armed conflict in Afghanistan, U. N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon noted that children are being killed, exploited and abused in ever increasing numbers in the conflict-torn country.
According to the report, the use of children by armed forces and groups has been a serious problem throughout the 30 years of armed conflict in Afghanistan. The Afghan government ceased this practice and completed its demobilization of under-age soldiers, almost 7,500 of them, in 2003.
According to the report, the Taliban continues to actively recruit children to be not only fighters, but also suicide bombers. So far, most of the documented cases of children who have allegedly been used as suicide bombers have been children between 15 and 16 years of age who were tricked, promised money or forced to become suicide bombers.
Afghanistan also faces another pervasive problem — sexual abuse of children, especially boys, by warlords and armed groups. According to the report, "violence against children, specifically of a sexual nature, occurs particularly during times of instability. The practice of 'bacha-baazi' (boy-play), consists of boys kept cloistered and used for sexual and harmful social entertainment by warlords and other armed group leaders."
The Secretary-General's report states that "(p)rosecution of a small number of cases has been confirmed by the country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting, and more initiatives, including studies on the issue of child sexual abuse, are being developed. However, law enforcement officials and human rights activists highlighted difficulties in preventing the practice, addressing the violence, and prosecuting the perpetrators more consistently."
If Afghanistan is to have a future, its children must be protected. A national birth registry should be set up to help with identifying those who are too young to fight, and existing laws dealing with underage recruitment must be enforced. Likewise, and consistent with the report's recommendations, the Government of Afghanistan should implement more fully laws and programs to prevent and punish sexual violence and to support victims, monitor sexual abuses against boys as well as girls, and work with the U.N. to study ways and means of combating harmful practices, including that of bacha baazi, with the support of Afghan religious leaders and civil society.