H.R. 1191: Improving Legislation to Prevent Child Soldiers


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008 outlined how to tackle and stop the recruitment of young people in combat. The H.R. 1191 of 2017 adjusts certain definitions to amend this legislation and broaden the scope.

The recruitment of children for armed combat exists amongst many conflict zones and developing countries. Situations can be regional or they can be national, but either way the practice is unacceptable within this legislation. In addition, any kind of child slavery during conflict is forbidden; any countries that let this trade continue should be noted and held accountable.

In a 2015-2016 report, more than 11 countries around the world utilized this practice, including Somalia. More often than not the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab uses children as suicide bombers and combatants. As recounted by Al Jazeera, recruits are reportedly as young as nine and comprise half of the force’s overall combatants. The overall message is that, like Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabaab is willing to recruit children to continue their raids.

Close in proximity is South Sudan, where the use of children in armed conflict rose since conflict re-emerged. The situation began in 2013 with the civil war led as many as 16,000 children into direct combat.

Eliminating the Recruitment of Child Soldiers 

In order to be able to more effectively combat the problem of child soldiers during an armed conflict, the existing legislation needed to be more specific in which government forces could not engage in recruitment of children. So the phrase “police or security forces,” after “government security forces” was added to the CSPA of 2008.

As stated in H.R. 1191, when people turn to police in instances like these, the situation oftentimes fails to improve. In Afghanistan, opposition militant groups target cops because they are on the frontline in combat with normal army forces. In February 2016, a ten-year-old boy assisted Afghan forces in a battle against the Taliban. He was assassinated for his efforts, and many stories similar to his failed to be publicly released.

Forty-five days after the possible enactment of this act, a report would be submitted to inform congressional committees of any government currently engaged in child trafficking or recruitment practices. In addition, any region taking the appropriate steps to not facilitate forced child labor practices during the conflict will be mentioned.

Implementing Change

H.R. 1191 changes the legislation in the CSPA of 2008 by switching around paragraphs and consequently emphasizing new amendments. This bill solidifies that countries in conflict cannot resort to using their youngest citizens as accessories in war. Every soldier that serves as a potential student or innovator could benefit the community. Rodrigue Katembo in the Congo is a real life example of achieved potential. He went from a child soldier to an advocate for wildlife in order to save Virunga Park and its gorillas.

Armed conflicts usually result in the use of children as combatants and sometimes forces them to perform various types of labor. Several countries in the developing world still engage in the practice. With the current amendments added to the CSPA of 2008 in H.R. 1191, international forces can potentially better define who to hold accountable and end this overall detrimental practice.

Nick Katsos

Photo: Flickr



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