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Petition Tag - optional protocol
More than 300,000 children are thought to be fighting in some 30 conflicts around the world. Most are between 15 and 18 years old, but many are as young as 10. Some are even younger.
Casualty rates are extremely high. Child soldiers are often subjected to sexual violence and extreme physical and emotional abuse intended to make them obedient and ruthless killers. This is in addition to the harm done by the denial of basic childhood needs for security, health and education.
In January 2000, the governments of the world agreed to ban the use of children in combat. This treaty, called the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, came into force on February 12, 2002. Canada was the first government to ratify.
The Optional Protocol requires governments to take all feasible measures to ensure that children under the age of 18 do not take part in hostilities. All compulsory recruitment - or conscription - of under-18-year-olds is banned, and governments are required to raise the age of voluntary recruitment to a minimum of 16. Unusually, the Optional Protocol also applies to armed groups, banning all military recruitment (voluntary or compulsory) and use of children under 18.
A number of governments have already signed the Protocol but not yet made a final legal commitment by ratifying. These include: Sudan, the Netherlands, Lebanon, Cuba and Indonesia.