What are Child Rights?
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines Child Rights as the minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be afforded to every citizen below the age of 18 regardless of race, national origin, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origin, wealth, birth status, disability, or other characteristics.
The UNCRC adopted in 1959, is based on the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, drafted by Save the Children founder Eglantyne Jebb. The Declaration on the Rights of the Child asserted that children have a right to food, health care, education and protection from exploitation. The Declaration took the bold step of asserting these rights for all children and made it the duty of the international community to put children’s rights at the forefront of planning.
Why are Child Rights important?
We are aware of various atrocities that take place against children; it is, therefore, imperative to legally safeguard them. Human Rights, at times, fall short wherein protection of children is concerned, worldwide; hence, children need more than just the basic Human Rights to protect their vulnerabilities.
The rights described in the Convention have been explained through the following fundamentals in reference to the articles. Articles cover all aspects of a child’s life and outline the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children are entitled to. It also highlights the responsibility of adults and the government to ensure that all children can enjoy all their rights.
In reference to ARTICLES 7 AND 8, children are entitled to a name, legally registered with the government, and a nationality. They must also have the right to an identity, in the form of a public record which ensures national support and access to social services.
In reference to ARTICLES 23 AND 24, children have the right to health that covers medical care and attention, nutrition, protection from ill habits, including drugs. It also highlights the child’s right to safe working environments. The articles also cover access to special care and support for children with special needs, as well as quality health care, which includes drinking water, nutrition, and a safe environment.
In reference to ARTICLE 28, every child has the right to free primary education. This will ensure the disciplinary development of a child’s body and mind while nurturing their growth in a safe and healthy environment. This right also necessitates freedom from violence, abuse or neglect.
In reference to ARTICLES 8, 9, 10, 16, 20, 22 and 40, a child has the right to be cared for and nurtured; if not by family members, then by caretakers until they are independently able to care for themselves on all fronts, including corporeal and psychological functions. The child has an obligation to live with the parents or caretakers to be safeguarded from any form of harm.
Children who do not have a family still have the right to special care and must be responsibly looked after by people who understand their ethnicity, religion, culture, and language. Refugee children also have the right to special protection and help. In the case of misdemeanours, children have the right to seek legal counsel under a Juvenile Justice Mechanism.
In reference to ARTICLES 19 and 34, a child has the right to be protected from all forms of violence, including ill-treatment, sexual, and/or physical violence. A child is protected against its family members as well, which condemns the use of violence as a means to teach discipline. All forms of sexual exploitation, abuse, and mistreatment are not acceptable. The article also strictly considers the sale of children, child trafficking, child prostitution, and child pornography.
In reference to ARTICLES 12 and 13, every child has the right to voice their opinions, free of criticism or contempt. Adults can actively make decisions on behalf of children; however, it becomes poignant for the adult to consider the opinions of the child. A child’s opinion, whether factual or not, could provide the adult with insights. Children have freedom of expression.
In reference to ARTICLES 38 and 39, every child has the right to be protected from all armed conflict that endangers their lives. These incidents can potentially convert innocent children into refugees, prisoners, or participants in these conflicts. This can severely damage a child’s morale and the general perception of ethics, which must be corrected in a safe environment. The government, on its part, must also ensure that children are not forced to participate in any armed struggle.
In reference to ARTICLES 19, 32, 34, 36 and 39, children should be rightfully protected from all means of exploitation. This covers abuse, negligence, violence, and maltreatment by parents, even if it is used to correct a child’s behaviour.
Children cannot be forced to work in difficult or dangerous conditions. They are allowed to volunteer for chores that do not compromise their health, access to education, and/or play.
Sexual exploitation of children is prohibited. Those children who have survived neglect, abuse, and exploitation must be rehabilitated.
Additionally, children cannot be punished blatantly under the ambit of the justice system. Death sentences, life sentences, and sentences with adult prisoners are not permitted.