Rights of the Child

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  • by Anup Shah
  • This Page Last Updated Saturday, September 27, 2003

As Amnesty International's report from their Children's Action 1999 campaign mentions, "To guarantee the human rights of children is to invest in the future". Many nations, it would seem, fail to realize this.

The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, is the main international body dedicated to the rights of every child.

And despite the U.S.'s perceived short-comings here, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, many countries have also failed to enact the convention that they have signed to. Their press release for this report summarizes some of the common problems children face, such as:

  • Refugees (children make up over half of the world's refugees)
  • Hazardous labor exploitation
  • physical abuse
  • sexual violence and exploitation
  • recruitment as child soldiers
  • Police abuse and arbitrary detention of street children
  • Orphans and abandoned children without adequate care
  • Sexual abuse and trafficking
  • Lack of access to education, or substandard education

The U.N. Special Session on Children in 2002 shows that a lot of the above problems still exist, as well as many others. Furthermore, the Session has highlighted many nations from the United States, to Syria, Iran and various others have in different ways opposed to certain aspects of children's rights. (The previous link has more details.)

The Convention also has some additional optional protocols, such as the the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts.

  • The Protocol also clarifies that 18 years is the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities, for compulsory recruitment and for any recruitment by non-governmental armed groups.
  • However, many nations, including wealthy and powerful countries such as UK have contentious issues when it comes to such additional protocols, especially in terms of the use of child combatants.
  • For example as Amnesty International reported, the United Kingdom in June 2003, "formally ratified an important child rights treaty - pledging to try to avoid deploying its under-age soldiers into active combat - but then also undermined the treaty's purpose by reserving wide discretion to use young people in battle." In addition, Amnesty also noted that No other European country apart from the UK deploys under-18s. The Convention defines a child to be anyone under the age of 18 unless national laws indicate otherwise. In the UK's case, the age of 18 is the age to vote, and as Amnesty International states in another article this implies children in the UK are old enough to kill but too young to vote.
  • Many countries employ children as soldiers, making the 300,000 estimated the world over.

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Author and Page Information

  • by Anup Shah
  • Created: Monday, July 20, 1998
  • Last Updated: Saturday, September 27, 2003

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