Roughly one half of the world’s population is children. Throughout history there have been various attempts to organize international rights for children, but it is recognized that the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child is the document that most of the world follows.
It helped changed the way people treated children. Instead of being passive objects of care and charity, they were now considered human beings with a distinct set of rights.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention and opened it for signature on Nov. 2, 1989. Nations that ratify it (make it officially valid) are bound to it by international law. Compliance is monitored by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is composed of members from countries around the year.
It was ratified by the appropriate percentage and came into force on Sept. 2, 1990. “Currently 196 countries are party to it, including every member of the United Nations except the United States.” I had to read this repeatedly. Then I wanted to know why.
Five and a half years after its ratification, Madeleine Albright, the then U.S ambassador of the U.S. signed it for us, but it prompted fire from mostly conservative right-wing fringe groups. The Heritage Foundation said, “Although not originally promoted as an entity that would become involved in actively seeking to shape member states’ domestic policies, the U.N. has become increasingly intrusive in these arenas.” Maybe they didn’t like the part about being monitored.
The Wikipedia article said that it was because the CRC forbids both the death penalty and life imprisonment for children (article 37). However, in 2005 a Supreme Court decision declared juvenile executions to be unconstitutional as “cruel and unusual punishment”
Regarding this major embarrassment, in 2008, presidential candidate Obama noticed that Somalia was the only other country who hadn’t signed. They have since done so. Now the South Sudan which wasn’t a nation on 2008 is the other country that hasn’t signed. Maybe we can help Obama bring this to the attention of our senators again. Or perhaps it might become a campaign issue.
You can read the rights for yourself at: http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30160.html and click the language you want. I’m summarizing several of them.
The Preamble: The CRC was created because of the recognition that the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
Art. 1: A child is anyone below the age of 18 unless their country has another legal age.
Art. 2: The CRC applies to all children whatever race, religion, abilities, family origin, where they live, their language, economic level. There is no discrimination at all.
Art.3: The best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them. All adults should do what is best for children from parents to law makers.
Art. 4: Governments have a responsibility to make sure that children’s rights are respected, protect and fulfilled. They must help families protect childrens’ rights and create an environment where they can grow and reach their potential.
Art. 5: Governments should respect the rights and responsibilities of families to direct and guide their children to learn how to use their rights properly “in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.”
Art. 6: Children have the right to live. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.
Art. 7: Children have the right to a legally registered name officially recognized by the government. They have a right to know and, as far as possible to be cared for by their parents.
Art. 8: Children shall not be separated from their parents against their will, except when such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. Their relationships shall be maintained unless it is against the child’s best interests, even if in a different state. (Art 10)
Art.11: Children shall not be taken out of their own country illegally. No child prostitution or pornography.
Art. 12: When adults are making decisions that affect children, the children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account.
Art. 13: Children have the right to get and share information as long as the information is not damaging to themselves or others.
Art 14: Children have freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights.
Art. 15: Children have the right to meet together and join groups and organizations, as long as it does not stop other people from enjoying their rights.
Art. 16: Children have a right to privacy. The law should protect them from attacks against their way of life, their good name, their families and homes.
Act. 17: Children have the right to get information from mass media that is important to their health and well-being. Children should also have access to children’s books. Mass media should be encouraged to disseminate information and material of social and cultural benefit to the child.
Act. 19: Protection from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation including sexual abuse.
[Acts for foster care and adoption, refugee status.]
Art. 23: Children with any disability have the right to special care and support, as well as all the rights in the Convention, so that they can live full and independent lives.
Act. 24: Children have the right to good quality health care, including education on nutrition, and good healthcare for caretakers. Mothers are ensured appropriate pre-natal and post-natal health care.
Act. 26: Children have a right to benefit from social security.
Act. 27: Children have the right to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
Act. 28: Children have the right to education: Primary and secondary education compulsory, available, and free to all. Guidance, psychological and vocational counseling also available.
Act. 29: Development of respect for all people. Preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples. Development of respect for the natural environment.
And more: the right of the child to rest and leisure, and engage in play appropriate for their age; to be encouraged to experience cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activities. Protection from drug abuse, child labor, sexual exploitation.
No one is allowed to punish children in a cruel or harmful way. Children who break the law should not be treated cruelly, or have life sentences. Children who have been harmed should receive special help to restore their health, self-respect and dignity. If they are accused of breaking the law they have the right to legal help and fair treatment in a justice system that respects their rights.
Don’t we want this for our children?
Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Hale Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org.