Optional Protocol:
Ratified November 2005
Compulsory recruitment age:
No conscription in law
Voluntary recruitment age:
16 years and six months (Navy); 17 years and six months (Army); 17 years (Air Force)

The prevalence of armed conflict or intensive armed violence in some states in India exacerbates the risk of the participation of under-18s in state armed forces in hostilities or otherwise being exposed to the risk associated with conflict. This risk is particularly manifest in areas affected by “Naxal violence”, where there have been past reports of children in the ranks of the Special Police Officers (SPOs), who have been known to be involved in counter-insurgency operations. Child Soldiers International has serious concerns about the lack of effective age verification measures in place during recruitment in state armed forces, including paramilitaries and police forces in India. This is particularly problematic given the low rate of birth registration in the country.

Precise and current patterns of recruitment and use of children by armed opposition groups in India is difficult to access in the absence of domestic and international monitoring. Despite consistent, credible reports by NGOs of recruitment and use of children by armed opposition groups, the government has not put in place any systematic monitoring of the issue. As a result, the government has failed to develop comprehensive strategies to protect and prevent the recruitment and use of children by armed opposition groups. Instead, it has relied on emergency and security legislation, including by detaining children suspected of association with armed opposition groups. Based on information available in the public domain, Child Soldiers International has concerns relating to underage recruitment in three areas: Jammu & Kashmir, areas affected by “Naxal violence” and Northeast India.

In August 2013, Child Soldiers International conducted remote research to prepare a shadow report in advance of the Committee on the Rights of the Child examination in October 2013 of India’s initial report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC).The report summarised Child Soldiers International’s concerns about India’s implementation of some of its obligations under OPAC, and put forth recommendations to the government of India.

Our work in India aims to:

• Ensure that the minimum age for membership to armed forces, paramilitaries, police forces and other defence militias is explicitly set by law at 18 years or above and that effective age verification procedures are applied at the point of recruitment.
• Advocate for the explicit criminalisation in law of the unlawful recruitment of children or their use in hostilities by state armed forces, paramilitaries, police forces, village defence militias, and non-state armed groups.
• Advocate for the amendment of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) and other emergency legislation to explicitly prohibit the detention of children under these laws. Ensure that a military order is issued to ensure all military personnel are aware of this prohibition.

Continue to Myanmar

Further Reading:

Displayed below are Reports and News Items from our archive relating to India.