More than One-in-Ten new Army recruits in Britain are boy soldiers of just 16 years and more than one in four of all new Army recruits are under 18. This was revealed by the figures released by United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the last week of May 2014.
There are more than 1700 teenagers in the armed forces below voting age. The proportion of Army recruits aged just 16 has increased from 10 per cent in 2012-13 to 13 per cent in 2013-14.
British army had amended its rules after an opposition over the deployment of 17 year olds to the Gulf War in 1991 and to Kosovo in 1999. The amendment had stopped the recruitment of soldiers under 18 from being sent on operations where there was a possibility of fighting.
Critics claimed that military recruitment crisis in the armed forces is one reason behind the increases of the recruitment in armed forces.
Research has shown that 16 year-old recruits are much more likely than adults to suffer bullying and harassment, to develop serious mental health problems, to be injured in training, and to be killed once they reach deployable age.
Besides UK, some 20 countries around the world recruit teenagers in the Army. Among these countries are North Korea and Iran.
International Law on military use of children had made a law in 2002. The Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict to the Convention provides that its State Parties, shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons below the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities and that they are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces.
International labor law provides that forced or compulsory recruitment of anyone under the age of 18 for use in armed conflict is one of the predefined worst forms of child labour. It will deem as a form of slavery in terms of the International Labour Organisation's Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999. The convention was adopted in 1999.
The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution under the heading Children in armed conflict. The first resolution on the issue, Resolution 1261, was passed in 1999.
Stand of India
In India, students can join the Navy from the age of 16 1/2 and the Air Force from the age of 17. These soldiers are not deployed until after training by which time they are 18 years or older.