oa Scientia Militaria : South African Journal of Military Studies - Facing child soldiers, moral issues, and "real soldiering" : anthropological perspectives on professional armed forces

Volume 37, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1022-8136
  • E-ISSN: 2224-0020



In today's world, adolescents and children sometimes act as combatants who directly participate in hostilities. Yet more often they are deployed as auxiliaries (for example, as lookouts or messengers) or in various support roles (as gardening, road maintenance, delivery of food, cleaning, cooking, conveying goods and providing sexual services) (Boothby and Knudsen 2000). Finally, under certain circumstances, adolescents and children may be used as human shields or for propaganda purposes by government or opposition forces (Boyden and De Berry 2004 : xii; United Nations 2002 : 13). Since the late 1970s, a number of international conventions have been promulgated to limit the use of these young people, but children continue to be deployed in parts of the world and overwhelmingly in sub-Saharan Africa. Estimates as to their numbers vary. Human Rights Watch (2007), a human rights lobby, estimates that there are between 200 000 and 300 000 such youngsters in armed conflicts in over twenty countries.

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