LONDON, 20 June 2014 – India must take urgent steps to implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to prevent and end child recruitment, Child Soldiers International said today. The CRC’s recent assessment of India’s implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) identifies serious gaps in legislative and policy measures to address child recruitment and use in India.

The CRC expressed deep concern at the recruitment of children by various non-State armed groups and their use in hostilities in Northeast India - areas where Maoist armed groups (Naxalites) are operating - and in Jammu and Kashmir. It expressed concern at the lack of legislation to prohibit and criminalise the recruitment and use of children under 18 years and on the absence of monitoring mechanisms. The CRC further noted the lack of effective mechanisms to verify the age of incoming recruits to the armed forces, police forces and other paramilitary forces, noting that the problem is exacerbated by the low rate of birth registration in India. It further recommended that India raises the minimum age of recruitment into armed forces to 18 years.

Research conducted by Child Soldiers International in August 2013, and submitted to the CRC in the form of a shadow report, reflects similar concerns. In particular, Child Soldiers International identified the risk of recruitment of children in the ranks of the Special Police Officers (SPOs) who have been used in counter-insurgency operations in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Village defence militias, village guards and SPOs have also been deployed in Maharashtra, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura and Jammu & Kashmir. Regulations for the appointment of SPOs do not specify minimum age. Furthermore, the Indian Penal Code does not explicitly criminalise the recruitment or use in hostilities of persons under-18 years. There are credible reports that children have been recruited by armed groups active in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, areas affected by Naxal violence and the northeastern states of Manipur and Meghalaya and used by them in a variety of roles.

“The Indian government needs to immediately put into action steps identified by the CRC to end the unlawful recruitment of children. It needs to work closely with UNICEF and other national and international organisations to address the root causes of underage recruitment, as well as establishing an effective monitoring and reporting system to investigate and respond to reports of child recruitment,” said Richard Clarke, Director, Child Soldiers International.

OPAC requires states parties to prevent unlawful recruitment of children in their territory and to effectively investigate credible reports of its occurrence. Child Soldiers International urges the Indian authorities to comply with their legally binding obligations under OPAC and promptly implement the recommendations of the CRC, in particular to:

  • Raise to 18 years the minimum age of voluntary recruitment into the armed forces;
  • Urgently enact legislation that prohibits and criminalises the unlawful recruitment and use of children in hostilities by all armed forces and non-state armed groups, and incorporate the forcible recruitment of children as an offence under the Indian Penal Code;
  • Ensure consistent and effective verification of the age of individual recruits to effectively prevent the unlawful recruitment of children into the armed forces. The Indian government should take all necessary measures to ensure that all children are registered at birth;
  • Seek technical assistance from UNICEF to urgently set up a monitoring system to allow family members to confidentially report cases of children who are missing and to ensure that prompt and impartial investigations into these reports are carried out.



Information on the CRC’s consideration of the Indian government’s implementation of OPAC can be found in the following reports:

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the report submitted by India under article 8, paragraph 1, of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, June 2014:

Child Soldiers International, India: Shadow Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, August 2013,

Child Soldiers International, Louder than words: An agenda for action to end state use of child soldiers, September 2012,