International organizations, such as the United Nations, have found it very difficult to prevent and prohibit child abuse because of an international conflict of laws. International labor laws, human rights laws, and humanitarian laws are often ineffective at influencing various countries’ perceptions of child abuse and maltreatment.
Although Western cultures condemn severe forms of international child abuse, such as child prostitution, many third world and underdeveloped countries do little to enforce international laws. Because of this, child maltreatment is widespread throughout areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The conflict of laws often allows children around the world to be recruited for use in armed conflict and married at an extremely young age.
International labor law has urged countries to recognize the recruitment of children to be utilized in armies or armed conflict as a criminal offense. This form of child abuse has been deemed one of the worst forms of child maltreatment. Children who are recruited into armies are not only used in battle, but are also used to support the troops in various armed forces around the world.
Children are often recruited in order to be used as messengers, cooks, or for other miscellaneous tasks. In many cases, young girls are used to provide sexual gratification to the troops. This form of child abuse is extremely detrimental to a child’s psychological and emotional well-being.
In 1989, the United Nations enacted the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. This legislation allows countries to recruit children who are over the age of fifteen for military purposes. This legislation requires that countries do what they can in order to avoid subjecting a child to combat. However, there are no repercussions for countries who utilize children in armed conflict. This conflict of laws has allowed the use of child soldiers to flourish throughout much of the world.
It has been estimated that over 100,000 children are being recruited for armed conflict. In parts of Asia, such as in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, many children are used in active fighting. The government of Burma specifically recruits children between the ages of twelve and sixteen.
In Afghanistan, thousands of children are taken and subjected to extensive child abuse in armies throughout the country. These children are often utilized as suicide bombers. Under Saddam Hussein’s rule, Iraqi children between the ages of twelve and seventeen were forced to take part in many hours of military training everyday at military camps around the country.
It is estimated that roughly 20% of the Bolivian army has not yet reached the age of sixteen. In situations such as this, children are subjected to severe physical and emotional abuse. They are forced to work and train for long hours, and they are placed in hazardous and fatal situations on a regular basis.
Human rights laws, as well as various laws throughout countries around the world, condemn the practice of child marriage. However, in many countries, traditional laws and tribal customs condone the marriage of young girls. In South Africa, legislation has been developed that allows these traditional marriages to occur. This conflict of laws has allowed young girls to be subjected to physical, emotional, and sexual child abuse.
The marriage of girls as young as twelve is widespread in parts of Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa. It is common for families to be given a bride price as compensation for the loss of their daughters. When a girl arrives at her husband’s home, she is exposed to various forms of child abuse, not only from her husband, but also from her husband’s family.
In parts of Asia, husbands sometimes sell their young wives to brothels to be used in the child prostitution tourism trade. Various stories have indicated that girls at these brothels who refuse to have sex are beaten and tortured until they comply. The disparity and conflict of laws throughout the world has allowed child abuse and maltreatment to prosper. In order to prevent abuse from occurring, countries around the world must adopt laws aimed at protecting children.