The British Armed Forces need to stop targeting and recruiting children


The Independent

The freelance journalist Lee Williams gives an overview of the UK military’s youth engagement, and presents a strong ethical case for why the armed forces should stop recruiting children.

Soldiers aged between 16 and 18 are twice as likely to die on the battlefield once they’re adults, and have a much higher suicide rate than the average for their age

The UK is one of only 19 countries in the world that still recruits 16-year-olds into its armed forces. The others include North Korea and Iran. What’s more, British teenagers – otherwise deemed too young to drive a car, drink alcohol or marry – are twice as likely to be killed as personnel recruited over the age of 18. Mental illness is also more prevalent in these recruits, with a suicide rate 82 per cent higher than civilians of the same age.

These uncomfortable facts clearly don’t fit in with the shiny nature of Armed Forces Day, which was celebrated this Saturday with parades, fly pasts, parachute displays, and speeches by David Cameron.

If only the truth was palatable enough to be celebrated. Numerous organisations including Amnesty International, the National Union of Teachers, and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, have challenged the Government’s policy of recruiting what many regard as child soldiers. But despite this, the Government is actually trying to increase the military’s influence within schools…

So what can we do to stop it? As Ben Griffin, founder of Veteran’s for Peace UK, has said, if there was a veteran outside every recruitment office who could tell parents that their 16-year-old son was twice as likely to die as an adult recruit, how many would let them do it?

Unfortunately that’s not possible. But we, as concerned citizens, can be that voice telling people about the other, less glamorous, side to military service. After all, the Government isn’t going to. Perhaps then, when enough people are made aware, we can move beyond the barbaric practice of recruiting child soldiers.

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