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About child rights

Challenge breaches of children's rights using CRIN's legal guide

Children's rights are about treating children with the equality, respect and dignity to which they are entitled, not because they are the “adults of tomorrow”, but because they are human beings today.

Children face particular exclusions and discrimination against which they have a right to full protection.

The fact that children are not adults, and the low social status afforded to them in most societies, means they may receive unfair treatment, or be left out of decision-making. For example, in almost every country children under 18 are denied political power because they cannot vote, and most countries allow parents to hit their children, even though they would be prosecuted for assault if they hit another adult. Children's status in society, among other factors, also means they are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and other forms of violence and exploitation.

There are therefore a number of rights in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which apply especially to children. These include, for example, the obligation to consider their views, and limitations on the use of children in armed conflict. Read CRIN's child rights factsheet here.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Since its adoption in 1989 after more than 60 years of advocacy, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been ratified more quickly and by more governments (all except Somalia and the US) than any other human rights instrument. Its basic premise is that children are born with fundamental freedoms and the inherent rights of all human beings.

Many governments have gone even further, enacting legislation, creating mechanisms and putting into place a range of creative measures to ensure the protection and realisation of the rights of those under the age of 18.

In article 1, the CRC defines children as "all human beings below the age of 18". As stated in article 3 and repeated throughout the text, the CRC is geared towards ensuring that the "best interest of the child" is safeguarded. Under article 4, States are obliged to do all it can to ensure the rights set out in the CRC.

In November 2002, the Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted General Comment No. 2 on "The Role of Independent National Human Rights Institutions in the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Child," which was an elaboration on article 4. Additionally, the Committee adopted General Comment No. 5 one year later on "The General Measures of Implementation of the Convention on the Right of the Child," which outlined more generally what States should do to implement the CRC.

For more information

Read Phillip Alston's paper: Laying the Foundations for Children's Rights: An Independent Study of some Key Legal and Institutional Aspects of the Impact of the CRC

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