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Convention on the Rights of the Child
Signed
Location
20 November 1989[1]
New York[1]
Effective
Condition
2 September 1990[1]
20 ratifications[2]
Signatories 140[1]
Parties 194[1]
Depositary UN Secretary-General[3]
Languages Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish[1]
Wikisource logo UN Convention on the Rights of the Child at Wikisource

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, often referred to as CRC or UNCRC, is an international convention setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children. Nations that ratify this international convention are bound to it by international law. Compliance is monitored by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child which is composed of members from countries around the world. Once a year, the Committee submits a report to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which also hears a statement from the CRC Chair, and the Assembly adopts a Resolution on the Rights of the Child.[4]

Governments of countries that have ratified the Convention are required to report to, and appear before, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child periodically to be examined on their progress with regards to the advancement of the implementation of the Convention and the status of child rights in their country. Their reports and the committee's written views and concerns are available on the committee's website.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention and opened it for signature on 20 November 1989 (the 30th anniversary of its Declaration of the Rights of the Child).[5] It came into force on 2 September 1990, after it was ratified by the required number of nations. As of November 2009, 194 countries have ratified it,[1] including every member of the United Nations except Somalia and United States.[4][6] Somalia's cabinet ministers have announced plans to ratify the treaty. [7]

Two optional protocols were adopted on 25 May 2000. The first restricts the involvement of children in military conflicts, and the second prohibits the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Both protocols have been ratified by more than 120 states.[8][9]

The Convention generally defines a child as any human being under the age of 18, unless an earlier age of majority is recognized by a country's law.

Contents

Contents

The Convention deals with the child-specific needs and rights. It requires that states act in the best interests of the child. This approach is different from the common law approach found in many countries that had previously treated children and wives as possessions or chattels, ownership of which was often argued over in family disputes. In many jurisdictions, properly implementing the Convention requires an overhaul of child custody and guardianship laws, or, at the very least, a creative approach within the existing laws.

The Convention acknowledges that every child has certain basic rights, including the right to life, his or her own name and identity, to be raised by his or her parents within a family or cultural grouping and have a relationship with both parents, even if they are separated.

The Convention obliges states to allow parents to exercise their parental responsibilities. The Convention also acknowledges that children have the right to express their opinions and to have those opinions heard and acted upon when appropriate, to be protected from abuse or exploitation, to have their privacy protected and requires that their lives not be subject to excessive interference.

The Convention also obliges signatory states to provide separate legal representation for a child in any judicial dispute concerning their care and asks that the child's viewpoint be heard in such cases. The Convention forbids capital punishment for children.

In its General Comment 8 (2000) the Committee on the Rights of the Child stated that there was an "obligation of all States parties to move quickly to prohibit and eliminate all corporal punishment and all other cruel or degrading forms of punishment of children".[10] Article 19 of the Convention states that State Parties must "take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence",[11] but makes no explicit reference to corporal punishment.

The European Court of Human Rights has made reference to the Convention when interpreting the European Convention on Human Rights.[12]

State parties and signatories

As of November 2009, 194 countries have ratified, accepted, or acceded to it (some with stated reservations or interpretations) including every member of the United Nations except Somalia and the United States.[4][6] Somalia has announced that it would shortly do so.

Australia

An article in the Australian National Observer described the Committee on the Rights of the Child as "an unelected body, which claims to be responsible only to the children of the world (and which therefore ultimately is responsible to no-one)".[13]

Canada

Canada has ratified the Convention but has not fully implemented the Convention in Canadian domestic laws. Youth criminal laws in Canada underwent major changes resulting in the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) which went into effect on 1 April 2003. In 1989, the Canadian House of Commons voted unanimously to pass a non-binding resolution to end child poverty by the year 2000. Between 1989 and 2008, the child poverty rates rose to a peak of nearly 25% in 1996, before falling to virtually the same rate of 15.8% in 2008.[14]

India

In India, there is no outright ban on child labor, and the practice is generally permitted in most industries except those deemed "hazardous". Although a law in October 2006 banned child labor in hotels, restaurants, and as domestic servants, there continues to be high demand for children as hired help in the home. Current estimates as to the number of child laborers in the country range from the government’s conservative estimate of 12 million children under 13 years of age to the much higher estimates of children’s rights activists, which hover around 60 million. Little is being done to address the problem since the economy is booming and the nuclear family is spreading, thereby increasing demand for child laborers. Under the auspices of the Unicef financed Udisha initiative the Government of India is specifying the outline of a means of change and improvement in child care. [15]

Iran

Although the Islamic Republic of Iran is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, international human rights organisations[16] and foreign governments [17] routinely denounce executions of Iranian child offenders as a violation of the treaty.

Ireland

The Republic of Ireland signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 21 October 1992 and ratified it, without reservation, on 21 September 1992.[18] In response to criticisms expressed in the 1998 review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, the Irish government established the office of Ombudsman for Children and drew up a national children's strategy. In 2006, following concerns expressed by the committee that the wording of the Irish Constitution does not allow the State to intervene in cases of abuse other than in very exceptional cases, the Irish government undertook to amend the constitution to make a more explicit commitment to children's rights.[19]

New Zealand

New Zealand ratified the Convention 6 April 1993 with reservations concerning the right to distinguish between persons according to the nature of their authority to be in New Zealand, the need for legislative action on economic exploitation - which it argued was adequately protected by existing law, and the provisions for the separation of juvenile offenders from adult offenders.[20]

In 1994, the Court of Appeal dismissed the suggestion that the Minister for Immigration and his department were at liberty to ignore the convention, arguing that this would imply that the country's adherence was 'at least partly window-dressing'.[21]

In 2007 New Zealand passed the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007, which removed the defence of "reasonable force" for parents disciplining their children.[22]

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia ratified the Convention in 1996, with a reservation 'with respect to all such articles as are in conflict with the provisions of Islamic law'[20] and considers it to be a valid source of domestic law. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, which reviewed Saudi Arabia's treatment of children under the Convention in January 2005, strongly condemned the government for its practice of imposing the death penalty on juveniles, calling it "a serious violation of the fundamental rights". The committee said it was "deeply alarmed" over the discretionary power judges hold to treat juveniles as adults: In its 2004 report the Saudi Arabia government had stated that it "never imposes capital punishment on persons... below the age of 18". However the government delegation later acknowledged that a judge could impose the death penalty whenever he decided that the convicted person had reached his or her majority, regardless of the person's actual age at the time of the crime or at the time of the scheduled execution.[23]

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom ratified the Convention on 16 December 1991, with several declarations and reservations,[24] and made its first report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in January 1995. Concerns raised by the Committee included the growth in child poverty and inequality, the extent of violence towards children, the use of custody for young offenders, the low age of criminal responsibility, and the lack of opportunities for children and young people to express views.[25] The 2002 report of the Committee expressed similar concerns, including the welfare of children in custody, unequal treatment of asylum seekers, and the negative impact of poverty on children's rights. In September 2008 the UK government decided to give up its reservations and agree to the Convention in these respects.[26][27]

However, the 2002 report's criticism of the legal defence of 'reasonable chastisement' of children by parents, which the Committee described as 'a serious violation of the dignity of the child',[28] was rejected by the UK Government. The Minister for Children, Young People and Families commented that while fewer parents are using smacking as a form of discipline, the majority said they would not support a ban.[29]

In evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Committee was criticised by the Family Education Trust for "adopting radical interpretations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in its pursuit of an agenda".[30] The Joint Committee's report recommended that "the time has come for the Government to act upon the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child concerning the corporal punishment of children and the incompatibility of the defence of reasonable chastisement with its obligations under the Convention."[31] The UK Government responded that "the use of physical punishment is a matter for individual parents to decide".[32]

United States

The United States government played an active role in the drafting of the Convention and signed it on 16 February 1995, but has not ratified it.[1]. Along with Somalia, the United States is one of only two countries in the world which have not ratified the Convention.[33] Opposition to the Convention is in part due to what are seen as potential conflicts with the Constitution and because of opposition by some political and religious conservatives.[34] The Heritage Foundation sees the conflict as an issue of national control over domestic policy.[35] President Barack Obama has described the failure to ratify the Convention as 'embarrassing' and has promised to review this.[36][37]

The US has signed and ratified both of the optional protocols to the Convention.[8][9]

Optional protocols

Two optional protocols were adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 May 2000. The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict requires governments to ensure that children under the age of eighteen are not recruited compulsorily into their armed forces, and calls on governments to do everything feasible to ensure that members of their armed forces who are under eighteen years of age do not take part in hostilities. This protocol entered into force on 12 July 2002;[8] as of May 2009, 128 states are party to the protocol and another 28 states have signed but not yet ratified it.[8]

The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography requires states to prohibit the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It entered into force on 18 January 2002;[9] as of May 2009, 131 states are party to the protocol and another 31 states have signed but not yet ratified it.[9]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h United Nations Treaty Collection. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  2. ^ Article 49.
  3. ^ Article 47.
  4. ^ a b c Child Rights Information Network (2008). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  5. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 25 session 44 Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November 1989
  6. ^ a b Amnesty International USA (2007). Convention on the Rights of the Child: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  7. ^ "Somalia to Join Child Rights Pact", Reuters, 20 November 2009.
  8. ^ a b c d United Nations Treaty Collection: Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Retrieved on 9 December 2008.
  9. ^ a b c d United Nations Treaty Collection: Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Retrieved on 9 December 2008.
  10. ^ General Comment 8, Committee on the Rights of the Child.
  11. ^ Article 19, Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  12. ^ Sutherland, Elaine E. (2003). "Can International Conventions Drive Domestic Law Reform? The Case of Physical Punishment of Children" in Dewar J., Parker S. (eds.) Family law: processes, practices, pressures: proceedings of the Tenth World Conference of the International Society of Family Law, July 2000, Brisbane, Australia. Oxford: Hart, p. 488. ISBN 978-1-84113-308-9
  13. ^ Francis, Charles, "Australia and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child", National Observer, Balwyn, Victoria, No. 42, Spring 1999.
  14. ^ "2008 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada" (pdf). Campaign 2000. http://www.campaign2000.ca/rc/C2000%20Report%20Card%20FINAL%20Nov%2010th08.pdf. Retrieved 16 May 2009. 
  15. ^ Gentleman, Amelia,"Children's domestic labor resists India's legal efforts", New York Times, 18 February 2007.
  16. ^ International Federation of Human Rights' report on the death penalty in Iran, April 2009; Human Rights Watch's reaction to the execution of Delera Darabi, May 2009
  17. ^ French reaction to the execution of Delera Darabi, May 2009 (French); European Union's reaction to the execution of Delera Darabi, May 2009.
  18. ^ Children's Rights Alliance website.
  19. ^ O'Brien, Carl, "UN to seek changes in Constitution in support of children", Irish Times, Dublin, 28 September 2006.
  20. ^ a b Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Status of Ratification.
  21. ^ Tavita vs Minister of Immigration, 17 December 1993 [1994] 2 NZLR 257 at 265, cited in Ferdinandusse, Ward N., Direct Application of International Criminal Law in National Courts, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 161. ISBN 978-90-6704-207-9
  22. ^ "Timeline: Anti-smacking legislation". TVNZ. http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/timeline-anti-smacking-legislation-2936192. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  23. ^ Saudi Arabia: Follow U.N. Call to End Juvenile Death Penalty, Human Rights Watch, 28 January 2006.
  24. ^ Frost, Nick, Child Welfare: Major Themes in Health and Social Welfare, Taylor and Francis, 2004, p. 175; Routledge, 2005, ISBN 978-0-415-31257-8
  25. ^ Davies, Martin, The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Social Work, Blackwell, 2000, p. 354. ISBN 978-0-631-21451-9
  26. ^ "UK to sign UN children convention". BBC News Online (London). 19 September 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7624450.stm. 
  27. ^ Easton, Mark, "UK to give up child rights opt-outs", BBC reporters blog, 19 September 2008.
  28. ^ Harvey, Colin J., Human Rights In The Community: Rights As Agents For Change, Oxford: Hart, 2005, p. 234. ISBN 978-1-84113-446-8
  29. ^ Hughes, Beverley, Minister for Children, Young People and Families, "Article defending the Government's position on smacking", press release, 8 October 2008.
  30. ^ Evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, UK Parliament, 12 May 2003.
  31. ^ House of Lords and House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights, The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Tenth Report of Session 2002–03, page 55.
  32. ^ "Government Responses to Reports from the Committee", Session 2005-06, paras. 82, 85, 86: HL 104, HC 850.
  33. ^ "Convention on the Rights of the Child: Frequently asked questions". Unicef. http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30229.html. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  34. ^ Smolin, David M. "Overcoming Religious Objections to the Convention on the Rights of the Child", Emory International Law Review, vol.20, p. 83.
  35. ^ "Human Rights and Social Issues at the U.N.: A Guide for U.S. Policymakers", Heritage Foundation.
  36. ^ Walden University Presidential Youth Debate, October 2008.
  37. ^ Child Rights Information Network

External links








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