Call to end recruitment of child soldiers

A toy soldier in front of tea lights

Quakers in Britain want an end to recruitment of under-18s to the military in the UK. Photo: BrendonPG/flickr CC

Quakers in Britain are calling on the UK parliament to amend the Armed Forces Bill to raise the age of enlistment to the military. Their submission to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill recommends, as a first step towards raising the enlistment age, that under eighteen year olds in the army should be able to leave as of right and all those under the age of eighteen should have to make a positive decision on their eighteenth birthday. According to Ministry of Defence figures, there are over 3,500 under-18s in the military.

Approving the amendment would give effect to the spirit and purpose of parliament`s ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which the parliament ratified in 2002. The UK is the only European country to recruit into the regular army at sixteen. After a cooling off period there is no discharge as of right. Those who sign up may be held to their commitment for four years beyond their eighteenth birthday.

 “Britain’s current reservation to the Optional Protocol is so broad as to frustrate its intention.” explains Michael Bartlet, Parliamentary Liaison Secretary of Quakers in Britain. “Under eighteens are considered too young to vote, yet they are old enough to join the army. Contracts are not normally enforceable against minors. They are not legally adult, yet they can make a decision, which binds them for four years beyond their eighteenth birthday.”

You can support the call by asking your member of parliament (MP) to sign Early Day Motion (EDP) 781 and support an amendment to the Armed Forces Bill at Report stage, which would give effect to recommendations set out in a submission to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill.


Quakers in Britain’s written submission to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill:

Amendments to the Armed Forces Bill:

They work for you – find your MP:

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