Kathmandu, October 9:

Partnership for Protecting Children in Armed Conflict (PPCC) today urged the Maoists, security forces and political parties not to forcibly mobilise children for political ends. In a release issued here, the PPCC also urged all political parties to commit in public that they won’t mobilise schoolchildren forcefully for political ends.

It said the All-Nepal Free Student Union (ANNFSU), the student wing of the CPN-UML, and the ANNISU (R), the student wing of the CPN (Maoist), had made a number of students participate in their national conventions in Bharatpur and Kathmandu respectively in September by making the students travel long distances on overloaded buses to the convention sites.

“Children should be in schools, studying and socialising with their peers. They should not be forced to march in rallies,” the press release quoted Tory Clawson, country director of Save the Children US in Nepal and member of the PPCC, as saying. Although the parties have denied using children, the PPCC claimed to have verified the abduction of 1,570 students over the year in Bara, Bardiya, Banke, Kailali, Surkhet, Dang and Bajura districts. The teachers and school officials, who protested the mobilisation of children, face threats to their lives and property, the press release said.

“Children are being mobilised for political purposes by several parties,” said Anjana Shakya, executive director of HimRights and member of the PPCC. Regardless of the child’s willingness to participate in such activities, the use of children in any political or military capacity is illegal, she said. Nepal is one of the signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It has also signed the optional protocol to the CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.