Too young to go to War?

Children play with plastic guns in the Syrian city of Aleppo. For over six years, Syria has suffered a civil war that has destroyed the country. (Ameer Alhalbi / AFP)

At what age can armies recruit? Are you old enough to work? When will you be able to vote?

Each country has its own laws, but international treaties establish common rules for all countries on global issues.

The rights of children are one of the main priorities of all governments. Can children be soldiers in a war? At what age can they start working?

When we talk about childhood, the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) are valid all over the world. Governments must comply with the articles of the convention if they wish to protect their children.

Kid Soldiers at War

In some countries, children can be part of the army and fight in a war even before they are old enough to vote. The CRC says that the minimum age to participate in a war is 15 years.

However, there is a complementary protocol that brings up that age to 18 years. According to this protocol, if the states want to recruit children under 18, they must obtain their parent’s permission and the minors must not take part in any battle.

A total of 111 countries have signed this protocol, although only 54 states have vaildated it, which means less than half of the countries actually comply with the principle of protecting children from armed conflicts.

Fighting against Child Explotation

According to the International Labor Organization, children can start working at the age of 13, so long as work does not interfere with their studies.

However, no one younger than 18 years old should do any work that is harmful or involves exploitation.

According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, harmful work is one that harms the health of children, causes physical or emotional stress, or prevents them from going to school or having free time to play and rest.

Child labor is considered to be any work or job that you are forced or made to do: this can be trafficking with people, that directly affects your dignity or self-esteem or if you are paid fairly.

Vote and speak your mind!

The voting age is usually the same as the adult one: in most countries around the world this age is set at 18 years.

However, the minimum voting age can vary greatly depending on the country: in Iran you can vote at 15, in Cyprus and Cuba at 16, and in Indonesia at 17.

In Kuwait and Sierra Leone, young people aren’t allowed to vote until they are 21 years old, while in Bolivia you can vote at 18 if you are married and at 21 if you are single.

You may not be old enough yet to vote, but you do have the right to have your own opinion and express it freely. That is one of the rights of children shared within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

You can participate in school talks, join associations in your neighborhood, get your message to political leaders and the media to make your voice heard.

Translated by Chaplin’s Languages | Find out more in Junior Report

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Llicenciada en Traducció i Periodisme per la Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Actualment és redactora en cap de Junior Report. Ha treballat a l’Agencia EFE, al diari ARA i com a traductora i periodista 'freelance' en diferents mitjans.

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