The Convention on the Rights of the child (CRC) outlines the universal standards of care for all people under the age of 18 to ensure basic rights of children and the obligations of governments to fulfill the rights of children. This first ever ground-breaking treaty on child rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 and the Government of India ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in Year 1992 which prescribes standards to be adhered to by all State parties in securing the best interest of the child. Today the UNCRC has been ratified by 194 countries becoming the most ratified of all international Human Rights treaties. 2014 marked 25 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Children and young people have the same basic general human rights as adults and also specific rights that recognise their special needs however children’s understanding of rights will vary depending on age and parents in particular should tailor the issues they discuss, the way in which they answer questions and discipline methods to the age and maturity of the individual child.
Over history there have been a number of international treaties and documents that outline the rights of a child. Prior to World War II the League of Nations had adopted the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1924. The United Nations (UN) took its first step towards declaring the importance of child rights by establishing the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund in 1946 (The name was shortened to United Nations Children's Fund in 1953, but kept the popular acronym UNICEF). Two years later the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, making it the first UN document to recognise children's need for protection.
The first UN document specially focused on child rights was the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, but instead of being a legally binding document it was more like a moral guide of conduct for governments. It was not until 1989 that the global community adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, making it the first international legally binding document concerning child rights.
What Does the Convention on the Rights of the Child Say?
The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that in all actions concerning children. The CRC outlines the fundamental rights of children, including the right to be protected from economic exploitation and harmful work, from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, and from physical or mental violence, as well as ensuring that children will not be separated from their family against their will. These four categories cover all civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of every child.
PREAMBLE: FOUR KEY PRINICPLES
The Convention on the rights of the child consists of 54 articles under four major categories of child rights that are given special emphasis. These are also known as ‘general principles’. These rights are the bedrock for securing the additional rights in the UN Convention.
- that all the rights guaranteed by the UNCRC must be available to all children without discrimination of any kind (Article 2);
- that the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children (Article 3);
- that every child has the right to life, survival and development (Article 6); and
- that the child’s view must be considered and taken into account in all matters affecting him or her (Article 12).
1. EVERY CHILD IS EQUAL: Children should neither benefit nor suffer because of their race, colour, gender, language, religion, national, social or ethnic origin, or because of any political or other opinion; because of their caste, property or birth status; or because they are disabled.
2. THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD: Laws and actions affecting children should put their best interests first and benefit them in the best possible way.
3. SURVIVAL, DEVELOPMENT AND PROTECTION: A child's right to survival begins before a child is born. The right to survival is inclusive of the child rights to be born, right to minimum standards of food, shelter and clothing, and the right to live with dignity.
Right to Survival includes the child’s right to life and the needs that are most basic to existence, such as nutrition, shelter, an adequate living standard, and access to medical services.
Right to Development includes the right to education, play, leisure, cultural activities, access to information, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Right to Protection is to ensure children are safeguarded against all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation, including special care for refugee children; safeguards for children in the criminal justice system; protection for children in employment; protection and rehabilitation for children who have suffered exploitation or abuse of any kind.
4. CHILD PARTICIPATION: A child has a right to participate in any decision making that involves him/her directly or indirectly. There are varying degrees of participation as per the age and maturity of the child.
How does the implementation of the Convention monitored?
The Committee on the Rights of the Child, an internationally elected body of independent experts monitors the implementation of the convention and the two optional protocols by all state parties. It then reports its finding to the General Assembly. All states are responsible for submitting their progress reports to the committee.
It was twenty-five years ago, it was the first time, it was a landmark moment in which CRC was adopted to promote and protect the rights of all children as the holders of a unique set of rights viz., education, leisure, participate in society, health and protection. The Government of India ratified the UNCRC in 1992. CHILDLINE is India’s national-level response to the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). CHILDLINEs’s work is guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
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