Colombia’s government claims that some 3,000 minors have demobilized from illegal armed groups in the country over the last nine years.
Amongst this figure, quoted by Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, are those who joined the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The group recruits fighters beginning about age 12, when they are tall enough to hold a rifle, according to the minister.
Based on information from FARC defectors, the government estimates that about 13 percent of former FARC guerrillas were recruited as children.
While the majority of child soldiers are male, approximately one third are females and may be forced into sexual slavery by armed groups, said Pinzon.
The government has recently rolled out an advertising campaign which is intended to warn parents that children suffering from abuse or neglect are easy targets for recruitment by the rebels. At a press conference to launch the campaign, several former guerrillas recruited as children spoke out against the FARC.