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Impact of War on Children

Syllabus: Indian Society/ Social Justice/ Ethics

Source: BBC


Context: A Russian missile strike severely damaged Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital in Kyiv, killing two people.


Ethical Issues related with War:

Incidents like these spark debates on the ethics of war, questioning whether war is ever justified. Tolstoy viewed war as inherently criminal, while the ‘Just War’ theory, supported by texts like the Mahabharata and thinkers like Aristotle, Cicero, and Augustine, suggests war can be legitimate under certain conditions. Just War Theory includes:

  • Jus ad bellum: Just cause, legitimate authority, last resort.
  • Jus in bello: Ethical conduct during war, protecting civilians, fair treatment of prisoners.
  • Jus post bellum: Justice after the war.


Ethical Issues Associated with War:

  1. Loss of human life, including civilians, women, and children.
  2. Degradation of moral equality by dehumanizing the enemy and mistreating prisoners of war.
  3. War crimes and atrocities, including genocide and summary executions.
  4. Fear of arms races and the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Other recent examples of conflict affecting children:

  1. Current Gazan Crisis: Children form the majority of people killed during the conflict
  2. Syrian Civil War: The conflict in Syria has resulted in a humanitarian crisis, with millions of children affected by displacement, violence, and a lack of access to education and healthcare.
  3. Yemen Conflict: The conflict in Yemen has impacted children through malnutrition, lack of medical care, and exposure to violence.
  4. Rohingya Crisis: The persecution and displacement of the Rohingya population from Myanmar to Bangladesh have left many children in overcrowded refugee camps, facing inadequate living conditions and limited access to education.
  5. COVID-19 Pandemic: Lockdowns, school closures, and economic challenges have disproportionately impacted vulnerable children.
  6. Natural Disasters (e.g., Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Tsunamis): Events like hurricanes in the Caribbean, earthquakes in Nepal, and tsunamis in Southeast Asia have resulted in displacement, trauma, and disrupted access to basic necessities for children.
  7. Armed Conflict in Afghanistan: Decades of conflict in Afghanistan have led to the displacement of families, disrupted education, and exposure of children to violence.
  8. Various Civil Wars in Africa:g., The civil war in South Sudan has led to displacement, food insecurity, and disrupted access to education and healthcare for children.

Impact of conflict on children:

Cycle of RevengeChildren experiencing conflict may harbour resentments and seek retribution.
Resistance to Social NormsAdolescents exposed to violence may exhibit rebellious behaviour against societal expectations.
Psychological TraumaSurvivors of conflict zones may develop anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Impact on EducationChildren in war zones may face disruptions in schooling, impacting academic performance and future prospects.
Long-term ConsequencesAdults who experience violence in childhood may perpetuate violence or struggle with mental health challenges.
Recruitment and UseArmed groups exploit children by coercing them into combat or support roles, compromising their well-being.
Sexual Violence and ExploitationConflict increases the risk of sexual violence, subjecting children to rape, trafficking, and other forms of exploitation.
Boys continued to be more affected by recruitment and use, killing and maiming, and abduction, while girls were disproportionately affected by conflict-related sexual violence.

India’s Success in Protecting Children’s Rights:


For the first time since 2010, India has been removed from the 2023 United Nations Report on Children and Armed Conflict. This decision reflects the measures taken by the Indian government to safeguard children, particularly addressing previous accusations of recruiting and using boys in armed groups in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).


Initiatives to Protect Children’s Rights

Infrastructure EstablishmentEstablishment of Child Welfare Committees, Juvenile Justice Boards, and Child Care Homes under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 in J&K.
UN-Recommended MeasuresImplementation of UN-recommended measures, including training programs for security forces on protecting children. Suspension of pellet guns use in J&K
Enforcement of ActsActive enforcement of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, 2012.
Global Conventions ComplianceCompliance with global conventions such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions, and the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)Recognition of recruiting child soldiers as a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Recognition of the recruitment and use of child soldiers as one of six “grave violations” by the United Nations.
Indian Legal FrameworkIndia’s status as a party to the CRC and accession to the Optional Protocol. Inclusion of most CRC rights in the Indian Constitution. IPC criminalizes the recruitment or use of persons under 18 in hostilities.

About UNCRC:

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a globally recognized international agreement adopted in 1989 and enforced in 1990, with 54 articles outlining children’s rights and governmental responsibilities. Ratified by all UN members except the United States, it ensures children’s fundamental rights, including the Right to life, education, protection from abuse, the right to be heard, and a relationship with parents.


The core principles include non-discrimination, the right to life, survival, and development, the best interests of the child, and respect for the child’s views


Way Forward: 

Trauma-Informed Responses: Countries should emphasize understanding the impact of past experiences on children in justice and protection systems. They should also encourage a comprehensive approach to address trauma in children in conflict with the law, using civil society organizations and Child groups.

Kailash Satyarthi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner known for his work in safeguarding children’s rights, condemns the harm inflicted on children in the conflict (the present Israel-Palestine conflichas profoundly affected both Israeli and Palestinian children)


WHO’s INSPIRE strategy against violence on children involves seven key strategies:

Implementation and enforcement of lawsInvolves enacting and enforcing laws, such as banning violent discipline and restricting access to alcohol and firearms.
Norms and values changeAims to change societal norms and values, particularly those that condone behaviours like the sexual abuse of girls or aggressive behaviour among boys.
Safe environmentsIdentifies and addresses specific local causes of violence, often employing strategies like problem-oriented policing.
Parental and caregiver supportProvides training to young, first-time parents to enhance their ability to care for and nurture children effectively.
Income and economic strengtheningIncludes initiatives like microfinance and gender equity training to improve economic stability, addressing underlying factors contributing to violence.
Response services provisionEnsures that children exposed to violence have access to effective emergency care and receive appropriate psychosocial support.
Education and life skillsFocuses on promoting school attendance and providing life and social skills training for children, contributing to their overall well-being and resilience.


Montessori, in “The Secret of Childhood” (1936), emphasized the importance of peaceful childhood circumstances, asserting that major individual and social issues originate from early years and therefore need concerted efforts to shield children from the effects of conflicts.

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