Innocence Lost

I still dream about the boy from my village who I killed. I see him in my dreams, and he is talking to me and saying I killed him for nothing, and I am crying.” This is what a 16-year-old girl who was abducted into a Ugandan resistance army told researchers from Human Rights Watch. Her words embody the lasting trauma of the more than 300,000 child soldiers worldwide who are forcibly enlisted, mostly in guerrilla and rebel armies.

Human Rights Watch reports that in the past decade, at least two million children have perished as a result. In February, the plight of child soldiers caught the world’s attention when members of “God’s Army” (pictured above), a Burmese rebel squad, seized a hospital in Thailand. God’s Army is led by Johnny and Luther Htoo, 12-year-old twins who claim to have mystical powers rendering them immune to injury and death.

Though very little has been done to abolish the use of child soldiers, the United Nations has made one small step forward by urging the adoption of an optional clause to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This amendment to the only international treaty that focuses on children would establish 18 as the minimum age for military enlistment. To help implement this age restriction, the U.N. has already begun to employ Child Protection Advisers (CPAs) in conflict zones who will help children recover from the physical and psychological wounds of their experiences. To date, only the United States and Somalia have failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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