Child Rights: Need for a better future
They are abandoned. They do not get a chance to step in a school. They are left to fend for themselves on the streets. They suffer from many forms of violence. They do not have access to even primary health care. They are subjected to cruel and inhumane treatments every day. They are children – innocent, young and beautiful – who are deprived of their rights.
In the history of human rights, the rights of children are the most ratified. 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.
These rights encompass freedom of children and their civil rights, family environment, necessary healthcare and welfare, education, leisure and cultural activities and special protection measures. The UNCRC outlines the fundamental human rights that should be
afforded to children in four broad classifications that suitably cover all civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of every child:
The right to Survival:
• Right to be born
• Right to minimum standards of food, shelter, and clothing
• Right to live with dignity
• Right to health care, to safe drinking water, nutritious food, a clean and safe environment, and information to help them stay healthy
The right to Protection:
• Right to be protected from all sorts of violence
• Right to be protected from neglect
• Right to be protected from physical and sexual abuse
• Right to be protected from dangerous drugs
The right to Participation:
• Right to freedom of opinion
• Right to freedom of expression
• Right to freedom of association
• Right to information
• Right to participate in any decision making that involves him/her directly or indirectly
The right to Development:
• Right to education
• Right to learn
• Right to relax and play
• Right to all forms of development – emotional, mental and physical
Impact of the Convention on the Child Rights
A milestone in the international human rights legislation, the ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’ has been instrumental in putting all the issues pertaining to children issues on the global as well as national agenda. In addition to this, it has extensively mobilized actions for the realization of the rights and development of children worldwide.
It was not an overnight initiative that resulted in the adoption of the Child Rights. It took several years of movements and activism on shaping favorable, positive and constructive attitudes toward children, and also inciting actions to improve their well-being. The enormous efforts involved toward the implementation of the Convention, the significant amount of resources committed to this cause, and the overall effectiveness of the systems put in place for the execution process have a bearing on the success of child well-being outcomes.
Over the last 20 or so years, implementation of the Convention and its effect on child well-being varied from country to country and from one region of the world to the other. Based on the analysis, there has been outstanding progress at a global level in addressing the issues related to children. These include progress in access to services, reaching their fullest potential through education, enactment of laws that upholds the principle of the best interests of a child, and child survival.
Though a noteworthy progress has been achieved, yet in developing countries, particularly India, there is still a long way to go in realizing the rights of children. Though all the relevant rules and policies are in place, there is a lack of enforcement initiatives. As barriers, there are several factors that forbid effective implementation of the laws. Due to relatively low success in achieving concrete child development outcomes in India, the condition of underprivileged kids and underprivileged youth is harsh and needs urgent attention. There is a need to intensify efforts for children welfare at all levels to implement the rules and provisions of the Convention and contribute to creating a suitable world for children.
Child Rights and the world
People from across the world striving for social justice have often directed their efforts toward the most vulnerable in society—the children. From Princess Diana's charitable work on behalf of children to the efforts of activists like Grace Abbott and the youngest Nobel laureate in history—Ms. Malala Yousafzai, these famous children's right activists have put commendable efforts in helping improve the lives of the youngest citizens.
2014 Nobel Peace Prize awardees—Ms. Malala Yousafzai and Mr. Kailash Satyarthi have reminded us all of the need to keep on advancing in providing opportunities that has an important effect on all children. The opportunities are meant to be meaningful enough to allow them to learn and gain the mindsets and skills that would empower them to be free, develop themselves, their communities and the world.
Mr. Kailash Satyarthi’s struggle to liberate children from child labour had cost him many life threats, including bullet wounds by those who exploit young boys and girls for economic gain. Wearing flak jackets, and armed with strong determination, he and his team raided many illegal factories and mines to rescue the children who are sold into servitude. It has been 30 years now since he started his movement. A movement that has one clear purpose—no child shall be a slave.
On the other hand, when one thinks of Ms. Malala Yousafzai, the first thing that pops in one’s mind is education. The second is—education for girls. In 2009, when she was just 11, she wrote to BBC about the norm of banning female education under the Taliban regime in the Swat Valley (her hometown). Her article gained tremendous momentum worldwide. She started her fight for the education of girls at that small age and began to speak publicly and to the press, which caused her and her family receive constant death threats.
“I strongly feel that this is a big honour to hundreds of millions of the children who have been deprived of their childhood and freedom and education.” – Mr. Kailash Satyarthi.
“I speak not for myself but for those without voice... those who have fought for their rights... their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.” – Ms. Malala Yousafzai.
Summary of UNCRC
(United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child)
Everyone under 18 years of age has all the rights in this Convention.
The Convention applies to everyone whatever their race, religion, abilities, whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from.
All organizations concerned with children should work towards what is best for each child.
Governments should make these rights available to children.
Governments should respect the rights and responsibilities of families to direct and guide their children so that, as they grow, they learn to use their rights properly.
All children have the right to life. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.
All children have the right to a legally registered name, and nationality. They have the right to know and, as far as possible, to be cared for, by their parents.
Governments should respect children's right to a name, a nationality and family ties.
Children should not be separated from their parents unless it is for their own good (for example if a parent is mistreating or neglecting a child.) Children whose parents have separated have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this might harm the child.
Families who live in different countries should be allowed to move between those countries so that parents and children can stay in contact, or get back together as a family.
Governments should take steps to stop children being taken out of their own country illegally.
Children have the right to say what they think should happen, when adults are making decisions that affect them, and to have their opinions taken into account.
Children have the right to get and to share information, as long as the information is not damaging to them or to others.
Children have the right to think and believe what they want, and to practise their religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights. Parents should guide their children on these matters.
Children have the right to meet together and to join groups and organisations, as long as this does not stop other people from enjoying their rights.
Children have a right to privacy. The law should protect them from attacks against their way of life, their good name, their families and their homes.
Children have the right to reliable information from the mass media. Television, radio, and newspapers should provide information that children can understand, and should not promote materials that could harm children.
Both parents share responsibility for bringing up their children, and should always consider what is best for each child. Governments should help parents by providing services to support them, especially if both parents work outside the home.
Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for, and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them.
Children who cannot be looked after by their own family must be looked after properly, by people who respect their religion, culture and language.
When children are adopted the first concern must be what is best for them. The same rules should apply whether the children are adopted in the country where they were born, or if they are taken to live in another country.
Children who come into a country as refugees should have the same rights as children born in that country.
Children who have any kind of disability should have special care and support, so that they can lead full and independent lives.
Children have the right to good quality health care, to clean water, nutritious food, and a clean environment, so that they will stay healthy. Rich countries should help poorer countries achieve this.
Children who are looked after by their local authority, rather than by their parents, should have someone review the situation regularly.
The Government should provide extra money for the children of families in need.
Children have a right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and mental needs. The Government should help families who cannot afford to provide this.
Children have a right to an education. Discipline in schools should respect children’s human dignity. Primary education should be free. Wealthy countries should help poorer countries achieve this.
Education should develop each child's personality and talents to the full. It should encourage children to respect their parents, and their own and other cultures.
Children have a right to learn and use the language and customs of their families, whether these are shared by the majority of people in the country or not.
All children have a right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of activities.
The Government should protect children from work that is dangerous, or that might harm their health or their education.
The Government should provide ways of protecting children from dangerous drugs.
The Government should protect children from sexual abuse.
The Government should make sure that children are not abducted or sold.
Children should be protected from any activities that could harm their development.
Children who break the law should not be treated cruelly. They should not be put in prison with adults and should be able to keep in contact with their families.
Governments should not allow children under 15 to join the army. Children in war zones should receive special protection.
Children who have been neglected or abused should receive special help to restore their self-respect.
Children who are accused of breaking the law should receive legal help. Prison sentences for children should only be used for the most serious offences.
If the laws of a particular country protect children better than the articles of the Convention, then those laws should stay.
The Government should make the Convention known to all parents and children