Every child has the right to live, thrive and reach their full potential. Millions of children, however, are denied these rights. They face abuse, neglect and exploitation. Some have been kidnapped and sold into slavery or sexual exploitation. Others are forced to work long hours to support their families or become homeless. They do not get the education or health care they need.
Children rights are a set of universal standards that governments must implement in order to protect the lives and wellbeing of all children, everywhere. The international community has agreed upon these standards through the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which nearly all countries have signed and ratified.
The Convention sets out 54 rights, or principles, for all children, everywhere. It is not a list of “to-do” items; rather, it provides an overview of the basic needs and expectations that all children should be guaranteed. It includes rights related to education, health, social protection and legal and physical protection. It also covers a wide range of issues affecting children, such as trafficking in humans, discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity, the use of child labour and war and conflict involving children.
Governments must ensure that children can travel freely within and out of their country, whether for school, work or medical treatment. They must protect children from being harmed, physically or emotionally, by other people, and they must help families to pay for the cost of healthcare. Children have the right to have their mental, emotional and physical health checked regularly. They should be able to speak freely about their problems and feelings, without fear of punishment or retaliation. They have the right to form their own opinions, including on sociopolitical ideologies, religion and spiritual beliefs, provided they do not harm others.
They have the right to have their family names registered when they are born and to have a nationality (belong to a country). Governments must make sure that children know who their parents are, and that they can keep in contact with both of them unless this would harm them. Governments must also prevent them from being taken out of the country by one parent and given to someone else for sale or exploitation (being taken advantage of).
Children have the right to freedom from all forms of exploitation, such as harmful work, drugs, violence, physical or emotional abuse, lack of proper healthcare, and war and conflict. They have the right to a good standard of living, to food, clothing and housing. They have the right to play, learn and participate in cultural life. They have the right to a safe environment and the right to have a say in decisions that affect them, according to their age and degree of maturity. They have the right to an education that prepares them to lead responsible lives and contribute to society. They have the right to rest and leisure, and to play and exercise their creative skills.