The concept of “children’s rights” is something that some people find difficult, and many people fail to understand. It is easily trivialised, and yet it addresses issues central to the safety, well-being and development of our youngest citizens, and indeed our society as a whole.
Children’s rights and interests are often forgotten and the very rationale for the Convention on the Rights of the Child was that children require special protection: while children possess human rights just as any other human being does, they require additional measures to guarantee enjoyment of those rights. As the preamble to the Convention states, “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection”. This statement has been endorsed by almost every nation in the world – the Convention remains the most widely ratified human rights treaty.
Whereas adults have comparatively ready access to legal redress, complaints mechanisms or other procedures or forums in which to air their grievances should their rights be infringed, such procedures often explicitly exclude children, or at least are rendered inaccessible or inappropriate.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the fundamental human rights that all children around the world, without discrimination, are entitled to. It sets out minimum benchmarks in rights for children rather than ‘best practice’; countries are thus encouraged to exceed the standards laid out in the Convention, but should not fall short of its basic requirements.
The CRC was passed by the UN General Assembly in 1989 and ratified by the UK in 1991. In addition, the UK ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2003, and has signed, but not yet ratified, the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Ratification commits the UK to