Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When is it okay to use child labour/soldiers?

Child soldiers and child labour are two issues that the world will stand up and say “these situations need to stop”. I agree with that 90%. Why 90%?
The child labour issue is easily defended. When a child has no family and the government has no support network one way to survive is to work. I have seen many children aged 12 working in construction, restaurants, farming, retail, healthcare and transportation so they can earn a living. These children are often the only sources of income for the family.
Next point is the family that owns a business and the children help out, learn how the business operates, grow food or run errands. In this situation children are rarely seen as employee, however the reality is they are. Families rely on the children to help out. Often there is not enough money to hire employees yet the help is needed.
Next we have the use of children that do advocacy work. Every organization understands that using children in advertising campaigns will increase the amount of money raised. UNICEF has stopped using children in one of its most successful fundraising campaigns during Halloween due to this very issue, as well as a safety concern.
Those above examples are the areas that make the issue of child labour defendable. In those situations the child is not being harmed. Also in most cases the child is being educated and the child asks to be included. This is the line which is to be drawn in favour of child labour.
Now for the more difficult situation to defend, child soldiers. There should never be an active campaign to entice children into military service. Nor should a child be used in active combat situations. The use of children in military situations is one that I would agree 100% to stop. However when an entire city is under siege it is almost impossible not to have children involved. The situation that I am thinking about is when a family/community is living within an active combat area.
Again I have worked with a great many children that decided themselves to join the military. Also there are the situations where children live within an area that experiences active combat for months or years. During these situations children live within the war zones. An example is the use of children to carry messages, ammunition, first aid, food and other items. This was common for children during World War Two when cities in Poland, Russia, England, Belgium, France, Norway and Germany experienced heavy fighting. The use of children in military operations was often used during espionage tactic as messengers as well.
In such cases the use of children in military support roles came out of necessity. The need comes about due to the fact that an entire population/area is at risk. When this situation occurs everyday life takes place in an active combat area. Often it is only a child that can move about safely. The only reason that the use of children in military service can be supported is in the face of certain death. Below is an account of such a situation
The remarkable story of Johnny and Luther Htoo, the thirteen-year-old twins who between 1999 and 2001 led a band of Karen rebels called God's Army against the government of Myanmar, shows how children can become willing participants in armed conflict.

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