Every year, the U.S. State Department reviews efforts by foreign governments to combat human trafficking. The use of children as soldiers by nations and armed groups is an egregious form of this crime and is a special concern.
While the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers is a global phenomenon, the 2015 human trafficking report indicates, as it has in the past, that the practice is most critical in Asia and Africa. Children are often abducted, or at times sold, to be used as combatants. In addition to participating in combat-related activities, children are sometimes forced to engage in hazardous activities such as laying mines, and are frequently killed or wounded. Some have been forced to commit atrocities, and most suffer psychological scarring. Both male and female child soldiers are often sexually abused and are at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
In 2008, our nation enacted a law that requires the Secretary of State to identify countries that have governmental armed forces or government-supported armed groups…that recruit and use child soldiers. The law requires that the Secretary of State compile and publish a list of those countries in the annual trafficking report. These countries then face legal restrictions on access to certain types of U.S. military assistance and training.
Eight countries were listed this year: Syria, Burma, Sudan, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Listed last year, the transitional government of the Central African Republic and Rwanda are making progress to reduce the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and weren’tincluded on the sanctions and restrictions list.
The sale and trafficking of children and their entrapment in any form must be eradicated, and their unlawful recruitment for labor or sexual exploitation in conflict areas must be stopped. All nations must work together with international organizations and non-governmental organizations to take urgent action to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate unlawful child soldiers.