Protecting children affected by armed conflict in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is committing to outlawing the use of child soldiers. War has been going on there since 2001 and children as young as 12 have been dragged into the conflict. Under an Action Plan to halt the use and recruitment of children into its National Security Forces, Afghanistan has committed to various activities, including prosecuting those who recruit under aged soldiers. The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy described some of the conditions children in war-torn Afghanistan face:
Coomaraswamy: Both the anti-government elements and elements of the Afgahan National Police have been listed by the Secretary-General for recruiting and using children. There are also important issues of denial of humanitarian access. There are also attacks on schools as you know as well as teachers and students especially girl-students in girl’s schools. But there seems to be a little bit of a decline the last few months with regard to that, but it still continues.
Gerry: I know there is a bit of a difference between the ways boys and girls are treated. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Coomaraswamy: Well, you know, I don’t know about difference, but let me just say that girls of course have a very hard time because they’re kept in the home and not allowed really sometimes to go to school, and there’s early marriage, and quite a few situations of discrimination that girls face. But I think boys don’t fare that much better. As you know one of the reasons we did go and discussed is this issue of Bacha bazi where boys are used as dancing boys and sexually exploited as well. So it’s not easy for children.
Gerry: You were able to come with an action plan with the help of officials. Can you tell me about this action plan? And what is it supposed to do?
Coomaraswamy: Well the action plan is to stop recruitment and use of children into the security forces of Afghanistan. This is mainly people concerned about the police where 12-year-old children were conducting searches and 14-year-olds were marrying check points, and that kind of situation as well as children associated with the police either as carrying water or as Bacha bazi or sexual partners, etc. So for all these reasons the Afghan National Police was listed.
Gerry: And what are the details of the action plan? How is it going to be put into effect?
Coomaraswamy: Well what it requires is for Afghans to make a commitment to release the children that are there, to prosecute those who are recruiting children; and it also gives the UN and its partners access to the barracks, to the training centres and to the stations so that they can go and do spot-checks to see if there are children there, and so there is a verification and monitoring role for the UN as well.
Producer: Gerry Adams