Children rights are human rights that recognise the special needs for care and protection of children. They are a set of principles that guide governments, parents, communities and other adults to ensure all children receive what they deserve: a childhood full of health, happiness and safety.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that every person below the age of eighteen is entitled to certain fundamental rights: the right to life; the right to survival, including food, clothing and housing; the right to education, training and development; and the right to play and develop one’s creativity. All children should have these rights regardless of their age, race, religion, wealth or birthplace.
In addition to these core rights, children also have a right to their own identity, and the right to be heard in all proceedings affecting them – whether it is legal or administrative – either directly or through their representatives, and this right must be taken into account when making decisions about them. Children have the right to be free from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. They should be protected from sexual exploitation and have access to adequate medical treatment. Children should be protected from malnutrition, lack of education, poverty and war.
These rights are enshrined in the CRC because it is recognized that these issues are widespread across the world and are a result of poverty, exploitation and lack of opportunity in many societies. This is not inevitable, and a society where all children have the opportunity to live a happy, healthy and safe life is a goal worth pursuing.
Some commentators have argued that children cannot hold these rights because they do not possess the capacities required to do so. This argument is flawed for a number of reasons. First, it would be inconsistent to allow a child some kind of right that requires the capacity to exercise it but deny them another kind of right that does not require that same capacity. It makes no sense to allow a child to refuse an operation but not to refuse a death sentence.
A more persuasive argument is that children hold these rights because they are human beings – albeit young ones. Children have a moral status that non-humans do not have, and therefore they are entitled to treaties that provide them with protection.
Children are vulnerable and dependent, so their rights should be defended with all the tools at our disposal. Children’s rights are not just a matter of law, they are a matter of justice, and the world is better for it. This is why we investigate, expose and combat violations of children’s rights – so that everyone can realise their true potential. We believe that the world’s children are our future and we will succeed in protecting their rights. We cannot do this alone – that’s why we need your support! Please join us and support our work to keep children safe.