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Is 16 years too young to join the military? And can Action Man prevent it?

by on June 22, 2015

We’ve reported before on the issue of 16 year olds in the UK being able to join the military. It’s a situation that puts the UK at odds with many other countries. As stated in this article in The Guardian, Britain is the only state in Europe or Nato that still enlists minors. The policy has been criticised by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and other groups including Child Soldiers International and the British Quakers.

In the latest development in their campaign to change this, the organisation Veterans For Peace (VFP) is releasing what are described as a series of ‘darkly satirical short films‘ to highlight the cost of war. These will feature ‘Action Man dolls with accessories including antidepressants, wheelchairs, “benefits cancelled” letters and body bags‘. The films are said to have been inspired by official Armed Forces toys, which apparently include a Predator drone playset for five-year-olds.  The camaign is an interesting take on the use of dolls to promote (or not) particular careers, as discussed here in The Guardian in relation to ‘Entrepreneur Barbie’ targeted at girls (and the subject of research by Katrina and my colleagues at Birkbeck).

The films will be online from tomorrow 23 June at

The key argument is that, although recruits under 18 need a parental or guardian’s consent to join up, the act of doing so needs to be an informed choice. Campaigners question whether this is achieved through current mechanisms and structures which lock new recruits in until they are 22.

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