QALA-E-NAW - At a UN-backed event in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Badghis province in western Afghanistan, community leaders underscored the need for stronger measures to protect children in armed conflict.
During the daylong event, representatives from the Provincial Council and the Department of Women’s Affairs gathered with police officials, rights activists and civil society members to strategize on ways to prevent children from being recruited into the conflict as soldiers or insurgents.
During the discussion, many stressed the need to address factors that make children susceptible to being drawn into the conflict and put forward practical ideas as solutions, such as strengthening processes around identification and age verification at the Afghan Civil Registry Authority.
“We see children working in the armed forces, and when we follow up, we find that correct recruitment procedures had been followed,” said Monisa Qaderi, a Provincial Council member. The problem, she said, is age fabrication during the identification and registration process.
Fatana Badghisi, an official from Voice of Women, a provincial nongovernmental organization, drew attention to the issue of child trafficking in the province and across the country.
“We have witnessed groups of children trafficked from Badghis to other countries and provinces,” said Badghisi. “This must be stopped.”
Afghanistan’s western region, which consists of four provinces, including Badghis, has in recent years experienced a growing number of insurgent activities, consequently leaving many children susceptible to abuse.
In Badghis and across the country, Afghanistan’s protracted conflict has extracted a heavy toll on children. The impact has been wide-reaching and devastating; thousands of children have been killed or maimed. Many have been displaced with their families and are living in poverty, unable to attend school.
Earlier this year, the Government of Afghanistan launched the Law on Protection of Child Rights, which added to a collection of other related legislation, such as the 2011 Joint Action Plan for the Prevention of Underage Recruitment, signed together with the United Nations.
In 2014, the government’s Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict endorsed a 15-point roadmap toward compliance with the action plan, drafted jointly by the Afghan Government and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF and UNAMA.
In 2015, the government enacted a law criminalizing the recruitment and use of children in the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces. In addition, Afghanistan’s revised Penal Code, which entered into force in February 2018, not only criminalized the recruitment and use of children in military units but also outlawed bacha bazi, a harmful practice whereby boys are exploited by powerful men for entertainment, particularly dancing and sexual activities.
The event in Badghis, organized by Voice of Women and UNAMA’s Herat regional office, concluded with participants jointly recommending stronger collaboration among their respective communities and better mechanisms for protecting the rights of children.
In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.