The Rights of Children

A child is a human being between the stages of birth and puberty or the developmental period of infancy and puberty. In family law a child may also refer to an offspring from one’s relationship with another person.

The child symbolically represents the potential for future development. This motif is found in mythologies and fables throughout the world. In some cultures the child symbolizes a divine aspect. In others it is a metaphor for rebirth or transformation. The child may also be a corrective image to a conscious attitude that is becoming too fixed or rigid. It is the image that suggests a necessary detachment from the past, even though this can be painful.

Children are very active creatures. They explore the world around them with a natural curiosity and delight. Left alone, they will often entertain themselves through imaginative play, imagining characters and stories. When they are with other children they will naturally organize games and activities. Children have a natural instinct for play, which is why the United Nations includes it as a fundamental human right along with shelter and education.

Every child has the right to be born free of disease and malnutrition, to a standard of living which will allow their physical, mental and moral development. Children have the right to be protected by their parents or legal guardians and must not be separated from them except where this is in their best interests and by a proper judicial procedure. They have the right to be named after themselves, to a family life which is safe and healthy, to receive an education of an appropriate quality, and to play. They have the right to freedom of expression, including the right to hold opinions and beliefs on matters affecting them, and to share these with adults, without discrimination of any kind.

In addition, every child has the right to privacy, to a private and secure home, to their families and extended family, to communication with them, and to their own religion, language and culture. They have the right to be informed of the information they should receive through television, radio and other media, and to choose for themselves what they wish to learn about, unless this harms other people. They have the right to express their views freely on all issues that affect them, and adults should listen to them and take them seriously.

They have the right to play and leisure time, and to join in cultural life, with others of their own age or from different age groups. This right should be respected, irrespective of whether the children live in urban or rural areas, speak their own languages, belong to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities, are disabled or not. They have the right to be educated and taught in a way that is suitable for their age, aptitude and abilities, with respect for their dignity and individuality. All this is included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN in 1989.