Child soldiers are individuals under the age of 18 who are recruited or used by armed forces or armed groups in any capacity, including as fighters, spies, messengers, cooks, or for other support roles. Child soldiers are often subjected to manipulation, coercion, or outright force to join armed groups, and they are typically used to participate in armed conflict.

The use of child soldiers is a grave violation of children’s rights and is considered a war crime under international law. Children who are recruited or used as soldiers are exposed to severe risks, including death, injury, sexual violence, psychological trauma, and loss of education and childhood.

Efforts to address the issue of child soldiers include legal frameworks such as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which sets 18 as the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities and prohibits the recruitment and use of children under 15 by state armed forces. Additionally, international organizations, governments, and NGOs work to rehabilitate and reintegrate former child soldiers into society and to prevent further recruitment through advocacy, education, and support programs.