People's Republic of Bangladesh

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 143.8 million (64.7 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 125,500
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 16
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 6 September 2000
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC API and II, ILO 182

The minimum age for voluntary recruitment was 16, and under-18s were reported to be serving in the armed forces. It was not known whether armed political groups were using under-18s.


There was no resolution to the conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, southeastern Bangladesh, which began in the mid-1970s, between indigenous peoples, Bengali settlers and the security forces. The ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP) halted implementation of the remaining provisions of a 1997 peace accord after its election in 2001. The move prompted fresh violence in 2002 between tribal groups and the security forces.1 In the run-up to the 2001 elections there were violent clashes between supporters of the BNP and the Awami League, in which about 150 people were killed and thousands injured. The Awami League, the former ruling party, alleged that the elections were rigged and boycotted parliament. Following the elections, hundreds of Hindu families were reportedly subjected to violent attacks, allegedly by BNP supporters because of their perceived support for the Awami League. Torture remained widespread and police used excessive force during opposition or trade union demonstrations. In 2003 at least 13 people died in police custody.2


National recruitment legislation

Bangladesh has not conscripted recruits to the armed forces since its creation as a state in 1971, although there is provision for conscription in times of emergency under the 1952 Army Act.3 In September 2000, on ratifying the Optional Protocol, the government declared that "the minimum age at which it permits voluntary recruitment into its national Armed Forces is sixteen years for non-commissioned soldiers and seventeen years for commissioned officers, with informed consent of parents or legal guardian, without any exception". The declaration stated that recruits are required to present documents including birth certificates and educational records, as well as undergo a medical examination to establish they have reached "puberty".4

In October 2003 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about "the various legal minimum ages ... particularly ... the very low age of criminal responsibility (seven years)", as well as "the lack of a functional birth registration system".5 Failure to register births reduces the authorities' capacity to determine the age of recruits.

Military training and military schools

Military training involves six months at a training centre and two to three months within an armed forces unit. The training is the same for recruits of all ages, including those under the age of 18, who on completion are required to perform the same duties as other soldiers. Recruits are not considered part of the armed forces until they have completed training.6 Officer candidates attend a two-year training course at the Bangladesh Military Academy near Chittagong.7 Children may attend Cadet College after completing the sixth grade in school, when they are usually aged about 12. There are about ten such colleges, where students follow the national curriculum as well as receiving military training. On completion, students are not obliged to join the army but generally do so.8

Child recruitment

It was difficult to obtain information on the total number of under-18s in the armed forces. Figures for 1999 showed there were 3,374 recruits below the age of 18 at that time serving in the forces.9 Other sources reported that only a small number of under-18s were actually serving as soldiers. Officers, because of the length of training, would be over 18 by the time they graduated.10

Armed political groups

A number of armed groups were operating in Bangladesh including some from neighbouring countries.11 It was not known whether these groups used or recruited children.

1 US Committee for Refugees, World Refugee Survey 2003 (Bangladesh),

2 Amnesty International Reports 2002, 2003 and 2004,

3 In times of emergency the government may declare that any individual or category of individuals are on active service (Section 7).

4 Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol,

5 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations: Bangladesh, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.221, 21 October 2003,

6 Information from Major-General Jamil D. Ahsan, Director General, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies, provided to Child Soldiers Coalition by Dr M. Masum, Jahangirnagar University, 24 April 2001.

7 Bangladesh Army, http://www.bangladesharmy. info (Career, Officer, Training commission).

8 Information provided by a government representative to Child Soldiers Coalition Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers, Kathmandu, May 2000.

9 Major-General Jamil D. Ahsan, op. cit.

10 Information from Child Soldiers Coalition Bangladesh, 2001.

11 US Committee for Refugees, op. cit.


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