There was a disturbing article in the Independent a few weeks ago about the UK's recruitment of child soldiers. The UK is one of the few countries which allows people under 18 to join the armed forces, and the British Army specifically targets schools for recruits. Under-18's make up a quarter of their total recruits, and as they lack formal qualifications, end up being assigned to the infantry. Where they end up as cannon-fodder in America's imperial wars:
Sharrocks joined the Army in 2006, aged 17. He left in 2013 and has since suffered mental health problems. The UK is the only country in Europe – and one of only a handful in the world – that recruits under-18s into its Armed Forces. Groups campaigning against the practice argue that the youngest recruits are most susceptible to developing mental health problems such as PTSD – and dying in action.
From 2015 to 2016, the Army enlisted 8,020 soldiers of whom 1,790 were aged under 18, according to CSI. Even though the latter will not see battle until they come of age, the organisation’s study of Afghanistan suggests they will remain twice as likely to be killed once they do.
Like Britain, New Zealand also allows the recruitment of minors (though like Britain, they are forbidden from serving on active service). According to an OIA I lodged last week, roughly an eighth of New Zealand army recruits are children. Unlike the UK, we don't fight for America, so the effects aren't nearly as bad. Still, its disturbing - especially when New Zealand was one of the lead campaigners for the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. We're consistent with its wording - no children in combat - but not its spirit, in that we still train children to be killers.
This isn't something we should do. Instead, we should follow civilised countries and prohibit minors from enlisting. It would be an easy amendment - simply replace section 36 of the Defence Act with a statement that "a person under 18 years of age shall not be eligible to enlist or be accepted for service in the Armed Forces". The question is whether MP's want to behave like a civilised country or not.