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CRIN - Discrimination

CRIN - Child Rights Information Network

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Discrimination and the law

Discrimination affects the rights of children and is therefore a legal issue. Without laws that prevent discrimination, there may be no way for children to stop others from treating them unfairly. Anti-discrimination laws are the first step to ensuring that all children receive the respect to which they are entitled. Laws that prohibit discrimination against children obligate adults to appreciate children's rights and teach children that they are equal members of society.

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Laws that prohibit discrimination are a starting point. While a strong legal framework is the backbone for preventing discrimination, it will do little to change children's realities if it is not used. For instance, if children do not know that they are entitled to equal treatment, if they do not have ways to tell the government that someone has broken the law, or if the authorities do not act on the discrimination they report, children will be no better off than before. This means that if children are to benefit from laws against discrimination, those laws must be part of a larger programme to ensure that all children are treated equally by all people.

This section of the website offers resources explaining the steps some countries are taking to prohibit discrimination and examples of successful legal challenges to discrimination.

Protecting children from age discrimination

Most countries prohibit discrimination against elderly people on the grounds of age, yet few protect children in the same way. This is starting to change...

  • Global report on laws protecting children from age discrimination
    From issuing declarations to passing legislation or even amending national constitutions, many countries and international organisations have started taking action to ensure that children enjoy the same rights and protections as adults.

    CRIN has compiled a report on what legislative measures have been taken across the world and some of the advocacy materials that were used to secure these.
      Read this report in English and Spanish.

Send information about laws which protect children from age discrimination in your country, or advocacy you are undertaking to press for such laws, to

  • Global report on status offences
    Status offences encompass acts that would not be criminal if they were committed by adults. This means that a status offender's conduct is considered unacceptable not because it is harmful, but solely on the basis of age. Status offences take many different forms in countries, states, and localities around the world - examples include curfew violations, school truancy, running away, begging, anti-social behaviour, gang association, and even simple disobedience or bad behaviour.

    CRIN has published a report on status offences around the world, calling for their abolition to protect children from harmful age discrimination.
    Read this report in English and Spanish.

Send information about status offences in your country to

Committee on the Rights of the Child: recommendations

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended various ways for States to strengthen their legal framework to eliminate discrimination. These include:

  • To adopt new laws, amend or rescind existing legislation to ensure that all children enjoy all rights set out in the CRC without discrimination.
  • To expand legally unacceptable grounds of discrimination in their national laws to ensure the protection of all children from discrimination.
  • To ensure domestic legislation and customary law practices are also in line with article 2, where discrimination is already prohibited in the constitution.
  • To undertake a legislative review to 'discrimination proof' legislation.

More information

  • Find out what measures the Committee has recommended your State to adopt to eliminate discrimination by searching the Concluding Observations section of our website.
  • Read a comparative analysis of the Committee's Concluding Observations on the right to non-discrimination in the most recent reports of the 27 EU Member States (EURONET, July 2009, pp. 7-9)
  • Read a comparative listing of the Committee's Concluding Observations on the right to non-discrimination to African countries (1993-2006).

Protection from discrimination in your country

More country reports will be available here shortly.

Read about legislative measures your country has taken to comply with article 2 of the CRC.

These reports also offer:

  • an overview of domestic children's rights jurisprudence with commentary on each article of the CRC from international, regional and domestic perspectives.
  • avenues for redress, which trace the steps that need to be taken to pursue remedies for violations of children's rights.

More information

How to make a complaint

While there are mechanisms allowing for individual complaints under most other international human rights instruments, as yet there is no such mechanism linked to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is a serious matter of discrimination against children.

CRIN is part of coalition of organisations that is campaigning for the establishment of an individual complaints mechanism in the CRC.

Join the Campaign for a complaints mechanism to the CRC.

How to file a complaint with other human rights mechanisms

The UN

Where authorised by a State party to a relevant UN convention, a number of UN Committees with a focus on discrimination accept complaints from individuals and groups, including children, who claim that their rights have been violated by that State party. Read about these here.

Regional human rights mechanisms

The European and Inter-American systems of human rights have also accepted complaints of discrimination against children.  For example:

  • In November 2007, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in D. H. and others v. Czech Republic that the Czech Republic had practised racial discrimination by wrongly channelling Roma children into remedial education schools.
  • Yean and Bosico v. the Dominican Republic was the first case in which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled on the prohibition of racial discrimination in access to nationality under the American Convention (August 2005)

Further examples.

Read about how to submit complaints to these bodies.

Case law

Search for court decisions protecting children from discrimination. Here you will find cases that successfully challenged discrimination on the grounds of disability, ethnic minorities and children born out of wedlock, among others.

Read a step-by-step guide to undertaking strategic litigation here:
Child Rights - A Guide to Strategic Litigation

Advocacy tips

  • Look at the constitution and legislation. Are all children of all ages explicitly protected from discrimination in all areas of life, in constitutional or legislative provisions? Are all children protected equally? If not, has the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child's Concluding Observations provided any guidance on this to your State? How has discrimination been successfully eliminated in constitutional and legislative provisions elsewhere?
  • Review legislation and policy to ensure these do not inadvertently discriminate. In other words, does apparently neutral legislation inadvertently disadvantage children, or a particular group of children?
  • Where legislation does exist to protect children from discrimination, is it implemented? If not, why?
  • Record evidence of the scale and forms of discrimination experienced by children been recorded by talking to children, their parents or carers, and statutory bodies? Read an example of how this has been done here.
  • Does a mechanism exist which systematically involves children in developing legislation and policies which affect them? How are children supported to share their concerns and communicate these messages to law and policy makers?
  • What age-specific services exist to ensure no children experience indirect discrimination? For example, are local authorities required to make reasonable accommodations for children with disabilities or young children to access public buildings?  Are age-appropriate services are available for children seeking legal or medical advice?
  • Are mechanisms in place to receive complaints if children's right to non-discrimination is breached? If so, are these accessible to all children?