The Convention on the Rights of the Child
January 22, 2000
Last November was the tenth anniversary of adoption of the Convention of the Rights of the Child by the United Nations General Assembly. The convention was first drafted in 1979, and was adopted by UN on November 20, 1989. On this occasion, a variety of meetings and conferences were held to evaluate the effect of the convention on the lives of children. The outcome of these evaluations indicates that after a decade, despite meagre improvements here and there, there has been a general deterioration in the situation of children around the world.
The Convention is claimed to be the most advanced and the humane international treaty to date – a proportionate claim in so far as the international resolutions and treaties of the ruling governments and United Nations are concerned. All the member states except Somalia have signed the Convention, while the United States of America is yet to ratify it.
Though undoubtedly a progressive international treaty, the convention is replete with limitations and restrictions. It does not, for instance, mention free care or services for children. Moreover, the achievement of most of the provisions is dependent, for all intents and purposes, upon the state of laws and legislation, the ruling government, religion, nationality, and governing culture within a given society and/or family, and accordingly it suffers from discriminatory and double standards in different societies.
In addition, despite holding national governments accountable for ensuring that the rights of children are protected, the Conventions does not have any power of enforcement, but merely makes recommendations and puts pressure on the governments.
Most importantly, however, the United Nations headed by the United States and other economically powerful countries are themselves at the root of inhumane policies and violations of the rights of children by imposing such policies as embargo and military invasions. A recent example is the situation of millions of children in Iraq and Cuba whom are the victims of war and economic sanctions. These children have been facing horrendous suffering and death because of the embargo on food, medicine, and medical equipment imposed by the United States and its Western allies. In fact, the Convention has, in several cases, been used as a means of political and economic propaganda among conflicting governments rather than the well-being of children.
It must be said that the Convention of the Rights of the Child, regardless of all its restrictions, is an achievement for all those movements seeking freedom and equality; and as such, it must be employed as a watchdog, compelling the governments to respect the rights of children. This Convention has, during the last decade and in the absence of a progressive and advanced international children’s rights alternative, been used and referred to by non-governmental organisations and equal rights movements as a means of putting pressure on governments.
Furthermore, forcing the governments to pledge, legislate and implement the Convention is part of the struggle for improved living conditions. This is part of the struggle of empowering the real alternative, vis-ŕ-vis the struggle for an equal and humane system: a struggle for the only system that by abolishing capitalism, establishes and guarantees the rights of children.
The function of the Convention on the Rights of the child is not to make fundamental and serious changes in the lives of children, but to prevent governments from violating the rights of children and it should be used and referred to in this capacity. While maintaining a critical stance regarding the Convention, it must be used in the struggles for the rights of children. Its main shortcomings include its double standard approach towards the rights of children, namely with regards to the ideology, nationality, religion and wealth of the society, and the status of the family, while allowing the ruling governments a free hand to impose poverty and inhumane conditions on children. None-the-less, given this level of expectations, the Convention provides a stepping stone to achieve further demands, and gaining support for recognition and empowerment of alternative demands.
The followings are some of the important articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. For the complete text of the Convention visit the Web Site of the Children First.
States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.
States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.
States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.
No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.
The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
States Parties recognize the important function performed by the mass media and shall ensure that the child has access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources, especially those aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that children of working parents have the right to benefit from child-care services and facilities for which they are eligible.
States parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
States Parties recognize that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance, and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community.
States Parties recognize the right of the child to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his/her right of access to such health care services.
States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.
States Parties shall recognize for every child the right to benefit from social security, including social insurance, and shall take the necessary measures to achieve the full realization of this right in accordance with their national law.
States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
States Parties recognize the right of the child to education…
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.
States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
(a) The development of the child’s personality, talents, and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
( c ) The development of respect for the child’s parents, his/her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he/she may originate, and for civilizations different from his/her own;
(d) The 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, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
(e) The development of respect for the natural environment.
In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his/her group, to enjoy his/her own religion, or to use his/her own language.
States parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.
States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances.
States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
States Parties shall take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction of, the sale of or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form.
States Parties shall protect the child against all other forms of exploitation prejudicial to any aspects of the child’s welfare.
States Parties shall ensure that:
(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age;
States Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for rules of international humanitarian law applicable to them in armed conflicts which are relevant to the child.
States Parties shall take all refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of 15 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.
States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of 15 years into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of 15 years but who have not attained the age of 18 years, States Parties shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest.
States Parties recognize the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth, which reinforces the child’s respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and which takes into account the child’s age and the desirability of promoting the child’s reintegration and the child’s assuming a constructive role in society.
Nothing in the present Convention shall affect any provisions which are more conducive to the realization of the rights of the child and which may be contained in:
(a) The law of a State Party; or
(b) International law in force for that State.