25 Rights All Children Should Have -- But Do They?


unicef kidsUNICEF has an incredibly neat advocacy program for children called the "Convention on the Rights of the Child." This is considered a completely non-negotiable set of standards and rights designed to respect every child's sense of self-worth, dignity, and health (mental, emotional, and physical) regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. It's a legally agreed upon WORLDWIDE contract, a special convention just for kids, to help provide a bare minimum of regulations. The only situation in which these rules don't apply is when the local laws actually provide more protection for children than UNICEF's.

They consist of 54 individual rights, and two "optional protocols." Their efforts to protect children worldwide are so admirable. However, I'm not entirely sure some countries, including the US, really live up to the rules they agreed to. Paraphrased, here are 25 of the rights every single child in the world should have:

  1. Non-discrimination. No matter if a child is rich or poor, male or female, disabled or of any race or sexuality, children shouldn't be treated unfairly.
  2. Best interests of the child. The best interest of the child should be the reason for all decisions made -- especially policies, law makers, and budget controllers, adults should do what is best for children.
  3. Protection of rights. Children's rights should be respected, protected, and fulfilled, whether we're talking government policies and laws, or even social and health services and, of course, within the home.
  4. Parental guidance. Government should allow parents to direct and guide their children in a manner that helps them understand their own rights, but without pushing them into actions or have consequences they're too young to understand. Without taking away choice from parents, governments should provide assistance to families to help them fulfill their role as a nurturer.
  5. Survival and development. Kids have the right to survive and develop healthily.
  6. Registration, name, and nationality. Children have a right to have an official record of who they are, an official name, belong to a country, and to know (as much as possible) and be cared for by their parents.
  7. Separation from parents. Children have the right to live with and remain in contact with both parents, unless it hurts the child, and move between houses of separated parents.
  8. Respect for the views of the child. Even if your child is a preschooler, your child should have a right to have a say in their life, especially in court, though of course with more age comes more weight behind their opinion.
  9. child drawingFreedom of expression. Children have the right to share, learn, and express themselves in any way they choose, with respect for the freedom, rights, and reputation of others.
  10. Right to privacy. Their homes, way of live, families, and their good names should be protected from attack.
  11. Access to information and mass media. Children should have access to children's books, radio, newspapers, television, or Internet to learn about things important to their own health and well-being.
  12. State assistance. The government does not have the right to take responsibility for children away from parents (unless they're in danger), but has an obligation, especially when both parents are working, to aid and support them to be able to properly care for their kids.
  13. Protection from all forms of violence. Governments should protect children from mental, physical, and emotional abuse and neglect. This includes forms of discipline that involve violence -- discipline is to be age-appropriate, with respect for the child's best interests and development.
  14. Children deprived of family. For kids who cannot be looked after their own family, they have a right to be cared for by someone who respects their ethnicity, religion, culture, and language.
  15. Adoption. Children have the right to protection in foster care or adopted homes, where the first concern must be their welfare.
  16. Children with disabilities. Kids with any kind of disability must be provided special care and support to help them live full and independent lives.
  17. Health and health services. Children have the right to good quality health care, safe drinking water, nutritious food, and a clean and safe environment -- and rich countries should help poor countries achieve this.
  18. Social security. Children have the right to get help from the government if poor or in need.
  19. kid missing shoeAdequate standard of living. Homes and quality of life should be beneficial to their mental and physical needs.
  20. Education. All kids should have the right to primary education, and poor countries should receive help from rich countries to achieve this. Discipline within schools should respect a child's dignity, which must not include mental, physical violence, abuse, or neglect. Schools should be run in an orderly fashion, and children should be encouraged to become as educated as possible.
  21. Goals of education. Education should develop each individual child's personality, abilities, and talents to the fullest. They should be encouraged to respect other people's rights and cultures, learn to live peacefully with others, and protect the environment and other people. Education should aim to value and respect beliefs and culture of all parents, though it's up to individual countries to decide on things like dress codes, national anthems, or prayer.
  22. Leisure, play, and culture. Kids have the right to a variety of recreational activities, but also to have time to just relax and play.
  23. Sexual exploitation, abduction, sale, and trafficking. Children should be protected from all forms of exploitation, sexual abuse, sales, prostitution, and pornography.
  24. Detention and punishment. Children who break laws should not be treated cruelly, nor put in jail with adults or banned from contact with their families. Punishment can never be cruel or harmful.
  25. Rehabilitation of child victims. Children who have been abused, neglected, harmed, or exploited should receive special help to reintegrate into society, and restore their health, self-respect, and dignity.


Do you feel we live up to the terms of the Convention? Do you agree with all points?


Images via UNICEF; unicefiran/Flickr; Julien Harneis/Flickr

human rights, baby health


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nonmember avatar Emma

I'm sorry, there are some serious errors in the research of this article. First of all the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a UN human rights convention, one of nine currently in force, and not an advocacy program, which means it was adopted by the UN General assembly. Secondly, while the CRC is almost ratified by every state, the US (along with somalia) is actually not a member party, which means they don't have to abide by any of the articles stipulated in the convention.

Nikki Hill Hernandez

So where are the children's rights to genital integrity? Where is their protection from having others take from them a healthy, functioning part of their genitalia permanently to promote the religious and cultural views of the parents? These views they may never share.

Paige Gomez

Hey guess what, when I was a child, if I did something wrong, I got punished for it. My father would spank me, and if I talked back I would get slapped across the mouth. Does that mean my parents were "abusing" me? Or that they are bad parents? Cause I love my parents to me they were, and still are, the best parents I could ever ask for.

Xakana Xakana

Yeah, the US refuses to sign it because of people like Paige above. EVEN THOUGH most countries who have signed this do not protect children from violence on the parts of their parents. Of course the US doesn't meet it. Children in the US have less rights than dogs. It's sickening and as long as paranoid conservatives can keep it going, it's going to stay that way :(

Christa Newell Mariano

@ Emma, did you read the linked article (her source)?
@Nikki-this is such a general list and some nations still practice FGM. I am sure the goal wasn't to start a global debate but to make standards that were multi-cultural.
@Paige-slapping anyone across the face is considered assault. Assault doesn't transition to love and discipline when it's a child being assaulted! Of course, that doesn't mean that they were awful parents who deserve to have you taken away--they probably didn't know better or they assumed that it was okay because they grew up with it. As someone who grew up very over-disciplined I know it's hard to break habits and deeply ingrained responses, but that doesn't mean that wrong behaviors (harming a child) are right!
I do agree with all portions, and I do not believe that America has achieved all these things for all children. A large part of that is under-education, repetition of pour habits and behaviors engrained from childhood, and lack of support system for change and growth.

nonmember avatar Emma

@Christa- Yes, I did read the source but that doesn't make the research for this article any more accurate. I'm not sure what your point is. While I think the overall discussion of the CRC is important I also think that it's important to know what you are talking about especially if you are facilitating and framing the overall discussion.

Books... BooksnBoys


While the IDEA of the "rights of the child" came out of good intention, there are SEVERE problems with its practical application.  

For example: "The best interest of the child principle would give the government the ability to override every decision made by every parent if a government worker disagreed with the parent’s decision."  (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 3(1): “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”)  -  That doesn't mean the parent was in the wrong necessarily.  Just that a government worker disagreed with them.


Books... BooksnBoys

"Children would have the right to reproductive health information and services, including abortions,  without parental knowledge or consent."  (Katie Hatziavramidis, Parental Involvement Laws for Abortion in the United States and the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child: Can International Law Secure the Right to Choose for Minors?, 16 Tex. J. Women & L. 185, 202-203 (Spring 2007):  “The unmistakable trend in the United States is to consistently increase anti-choice legislation, particularly with respect to minors. Ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United States holds a strong possibility of assisting minors who seek abortions without parental interference.  [*203]  The Convention may offer the best hope for securing adolescent reproductive freedoms on a global level. If enough diplomatic pressure were exerted on the United States to compel it to ratify the treaty, the CRC could provide significant improvements in the outlook for reproductive freedom for minors.”) - I have a problem with a child, especially one say less than 14, getting an abortion without parental knowledge or consent.  As it stands now, my kids are not getting ANY medical procedures done without my okay.  I know them and their medical & emotional history best and I know what they can handle.  A child is simply not mature enough to make large decisions like that alone.

Books... BooksnBoys

That's two examples (with evidence) of current problems with the "rights of the child".  You may not agree with me that they are issues and that's fine.  But there are more serious issues with the different interpretations of this law (and were the US to ratify this treaty it would supercede ALL current US laws).  Here are some examples from Belgium, a "successful country" in terms of the "rights of the child".

Belgium: In September 2006, the town of Merchtem banned all persons in local schools from speaking French, even though the town is only nine miles from Brussels, a French-speaking metropolis.  Anyone caught speaking anything other than Dutch on school premises - even parents picking up their children - is subject to reprimands.  Parents are not even allowed to have parents’ meetings in their native language, but must use an interpreter instead.  (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5305484.stm)

Books... BooksnBoys


Since 2002, Belgium has allowed doctors to terminate the lives of infants under the age of 12 months if they feel the baby is somehow disabled or deficient, and is likely to suffer in life as a result.  More than half of the Belgian babies who die before they are a year old are killed by deliberate medical intervention.  In 16% of cases, parental consent was not even considered.  To put these numbers in perspective, the CIA World Fact Book estimates that roughly 106,000 babies are born in Belgium each year.  Even using conservative estimates of Belgium’s rate of “assisted-suicide” in infants, one can estimate that some 470 children will die before they celebrate their first birthday.  Of these 470, more than 200 will die not from natural causes, but from direct medical intervention. Forty (40) of them will die regardless of their parents’ wishes, objections, or pleadings...Unfortunately, the program has been deemed so “successful” in Belgium that in March 2008, the government began considering legislation that would also make assisted-suicide available to teenagers and younger children who are terminally-ill.  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/belgium/1582882/Teens-need-right-to-%27medically-assisted-suicide%27.html) 


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