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Children’s rights are human rights. Children must be treated with equality, respect and dignity, not because they are "the future" or the "adults of tomorrow", but because they are human beings today. All humans are born inherent with fundamental freedoms and rights.
Children must enjoy the same human rights as everybody else - from the right to freedom of expression to the right to privacy. This means all human rights laws apply equally to children and adults.
However, children are afforded a low status in most societies. For example, in almost every country children under the age of 18 are denied political power because they cannot vote, and most countries allow parents to hit their children even though they would be prosecuted for assault if they hit an adult.
This means children have specific rights to help protect them from the threats, exclusions and discrimination they are vulnerable to. These rights are embodied in international law in the Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC) and its Optional Protocols - one on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; another on armed conflict; while another sets up an international complaints mechanism so cases of children’s rights abuse can be taken to the UN.
What is the CRC?
The Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC) is a UN international treaty that sets out the basic human rights that all children everywhere are entitled to. It was drafted in 1989 and came into force in 1990. There are 54 articles in the CRC that spell out all the rights of all children, which is everyone aged 0-18. It is the most ratified (agreed to) of all the international human rights treaties. Every country in the world has ratified the CRC except the United States.
It is a very important document because it makes it clear that children have human rights, individual identities, are in need of some protection and have voices that must be listened to and given due weight. It established a direct relationship between a child and the State, and where the rights and obligations lie in this relationship on issues like children’s right to health, freedom of expression, the right to be free from violence, the right to privacy and many more.
- See a breakdown of the different rights in the CRC that are uniquely for children.
- Find out more in our factsheet on children’s rights.
- Visit our rights section for further information on children’s rights, including detailed and plain language summaries of each and every article in the CRC and what they mean in practice, as well as pages dedicated to particular children’s rights themes, such as civil and political rights, or armed conflict.
- If you’re struggling with a particular term or piece of jargon, our children’s rights A-Z or legal jargon buster may be of use.
- Our I am.. section of the site contains children's rights resources tailored specifically to you, whether you are a child, parent, teacher or social worker.
- Read the "Legislative History of the Convention on the Rights of the Child" (vol 1 and vol 2 - OHCHR).