Children's Rights

The concept of children's rights was first discussed by the League of Nations in 1924. In 1978, Poland issued a formal proposal to the United Nations (U.N.) for the formation of legally binding rights of children. To develop this set of rights, the UN formed a working group including different nations, cultures and religions. The group worked on the project for 10 years until, in 1989, it presented the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has 54 articles that define the rights of children and young people up to the age of 18. The Convention was approved by the U.N. in November 1989. The convention had received almost complete ratification by U.N. member states by 1997, making it the most ratified human rights treaty. By 2011, only two countries remained to ratify the U.N.?s ?Children?s Charter?: Somalia and the United States (although the U.S. did sign the Convention in 1995). While it has established firm legislation related to race and gender issues, by 2010 the United States has not passed any comprehensive laws to define the rights of children.

Similar to human rights, children's rights define basic standards to allow them to live and grow up in dignity. Historically, children's rights aimed to protect children from abuse and neglect, and to provide for basic maintenance. In most nations, parents and ultimately the state held some legal responsibility to provide protection, food and shelter. Participation rights, which involve children asserting claims to adult liberties, appeared in conjunction with the human rights movement in the second half of the 20th century. The 54 articles in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are divided into four groups that involve survival, protection, development and participation. Its major principles recognize the child as a person with evolving capacities. Each country that has ratified the treaty has to form its own legislation that encompasses the care, protection and freedoms of children at any age. Article 3 states that "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."

Article 12 is focused on the right of children who are capable of forming their own views to be allowed to express those views freely in all matters affecting them. The child's views should be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. According to Article 19, all nations that have ratified the Convention should take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation including sexual abuse. According to Article 16 "no child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation."

Article 24 involves the right of children to the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. Article 28 states that every child has the right to be educated. Protections from employment, sexual and other forms of exploitation including abduction, sale and trafficking, torture and other are defined in articles 32, 34, 35 and 36. Article 37 aims to ensure that every child deprived of his or her liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. Articles 43 to 54 are related to the way adults should work to ensure that the rights of all children and young people are met.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Tragedy of Children's Rights from Ben Franklin to Lionel Tate
Barbara Bennett Woodhouse.
Princeton University Press, 2008
The New Handbook of Children's Rights: Comparative Policy and Practice
Bob Franklin.
Routledge, 2001
What's Wrong with Children's Rights
Martin Guggenheim.
Harvard University Press, 2005
Child Rights & Remedies
Robert C. Fellmeth.
Clarity Press, 2002
Legal Directory of Children's Rights
Thomas A. Jacobs.
University Publications of America, vol.1, 1985
The Moral and Political Status of Children
David Archard; Colin M. Macleod.
Oxford University Press, 2002
Nameless Persons: Legal Discrimination against Non-Marital Children in the United States
Martha T. Zingo; Kevin E. Early.
Praeger Publishers, 1994
The Convention on the Rights of the Child: United Nations Lawmaking on Human Rights
Lawrence J. LeBlanc.
University of Nebraska Press, 1995
Implementing the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Standard of Living Adequate for Development
Arlene Bowers Andrews; Natalie Hevener Kaufman.
Praeger, 1999
Families, Politics and the Law: Perspectives for East and West Europe
Mavis Maclean; Jacek Kurczewski.
Oxford University, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Children's Rights and Adoption"
Children, Rights, and the Law
Philip Alston; Stephen Parker; John Seymour.
Clarendon Press, 1992
Parents, Families, and Communities Ensuring Children's Rights
Reyes, Elba I.
Bilingual Review, January-August 1999
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