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Recruitment into armed forces, groups and gangs

The recruitment of girls and boys by a variety of armed actors is recognized as one of the most egregious violations of children's rights. Children are targeted for recruitment because of a number of reasons: they are easier to control and manipulate, they look to adults to protect them, they are seen as cheap substitutes for adult soldiers and children can handle and carry weapons with high impact as a result of the development of small arms.

The involvement may be forced or voluntary. The children take on a range of roles including fighting, acting as spies or messengers, cooks and porters, to lay mines, as suicide bombers and for sexual purposes. Usually unpaid, they are performing tasks adults do not want to do and may also be coerced into carrying out grotesque acts of violence, including killing family members. In cases where children join voluntarily, they may do so to get food and shelter in a chaotic existence where attacks, abuse and poverty might have become the rule. Children can also join for cultural or ideological reasons or get influenced by the peer pressure that often occurs in war zones. Some children could be driven by the desire for vengeance against those who have carried out atrocities against their family.

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