Skip to main content

By Alyssa Schiefer

This semester, my team assisted Human Trafficking Institute, Uganda, by writing a memorandum on the use of child soldiers in Uganda. Specifically, we researched international human trafficking laws to show why the use of child soldiers is a form of human trafficking and how Uganda has responded to that argument. Our memorandum consisted of three parts: the laws on and history of Ugandan child soldiers, international law on human trafficking, and whether Ugandan law aligned with international law.

Photograph by William Campbell in The Irish Times

First, our team researched the legal definition of a child soldier in international law. We found that a child soldier is generally a child under the age of eighteen who takes part in any armed force or conflict. A child soldier can fight or work in another capacity, like a cook or messenger.

After defining the term, we researched Uganda’s historical and present use of child soldiers. Our research revealed that historically, from the 1980s to the early 2000s, Uganda routinely used child soldiers in the militia and rebel groups. While current reports are scarce, Uganda is actively fighting and taking steps to stop using child soldiers.

In the most significant portion of our memorandum, we compared international trafficking in person laws with respect to the meaning and use of child soldiers. International trafficking in person laws have three main elements: the means (recruitment/transfer), the act (bribery/force/threat/), and the purpose (exploitation). We also researched nuanced laws like consent of a minor and voluntary military recruitment of a minor, as both laws impact whether the use of child soldiers is considered human trafficking. Through various reports and stories, we found that the use of child soldiers meets the international elements to constitute trafficking. Not only did the legal definitions align, but facially, child soldiers exhibit many of the same traits as trafficking victims, including poor health, mental trauma, and loss of community.

When comparing the above findings with Uganda’s statutes and acts, we found that Uganda has legally defined the use of child soldiers and considers it a form of human trafficking. Compared to other countries that still actively use child soldiers and have defined such use as a form of trafficking, Uganda aligns well with international law. However, although Uganda aligns with the argument that using child soldiers is a form of trafficking, there is more Uganda can do. Thus, our memorandum concluded with recommendations for Uganda and other countries looking to prevent and combat human trafficking, specifically trafficking in the form of child soldiers.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice law clerk. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.