Rights of the Child: Valuing Children, Respecting Children

Posted by under Human Rights Education on 24 September 2005

The Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC]provides the legal framework for basic human rights that children everywhere,without discrimination, have. In 1995, Singapore ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Both the government and civil society organisation have an obligation to promote the CRC.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

What are the basic human rights that all the children have?

  • the right to survival;
  • to develop to the fullest;
  • to protection from harmful influences,abuse and exploitation;

  • to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

Four General Principles

There are four general principles enshrined in the Convention. These are meant to help with the interpretation of the Convention as a whole and thereby guide national programmes of implementation. The four principles are formulated, in particular, in articles 2, 3, 6 and 12.

  • Non-discrimination (art. 2): States parties must ensure that all children within their Jurisdiction enjoy their rights. No child should suffer discrimination. This applies to every child, "irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status".

    The essential message is equality of opportunity. Girls should be given the same opportunities as boys. Refugee children, children of foreign origin, children of indigenous or minority groups should have the same rights as all others. Children with disabilities should be given the same opportunity to enjoy an adequate standard of living.

  • Best interests of the child (art. 3): When the authorities of a State take decisions which affect children, the best interests of children must be a primary consideration. This principle relates to decisions by courts of law, administrative authorities, legislative bodies and both public and private social-welfare institutions. This is, of course, a fundamental message of the Convention, the implementation of which is a major challenge.
  • The right to life, survival and development (art. 6): The right-to-life article includes formulations about the right to survival and to development, which should be ensured "to the maximum extent possible". The term "development" in this context should be interpreted in a broad sense, adding a qualitative dimension: not only physical health is intended, but also mental, emotional, cognitive, social and cultural development.
  • The views of the child (art 12): Children should be free to have opinions in all matters affecting them, and those views should be given due weight "in accordance with the age and maturity of the child". The underlying idea is that children have the right to be heard and to have their views taken seriously, including in any judicial or administrative proceedings affecting them.>

    Highlights of the Convention

    • Every child has the inherent right to life, and States shall ensure to the maximum child survival and development.
    • Every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth.
    • Children shall not be separated from their parents, except by competent authorities for their well-being.
    • States shall facilitate reunification of families by permitting travel into, or out of, their territories.
    • Parents have the primary responsibility for a child's upbringing, but States shall provide them with appropriate assistance and develop child-care institutions.
    • States shall protect children from physical or mental harm and neglect, including sexual abuse or exploitation.
    • States shall provide parentless children with suitable alternative care. The adoption process shall be carefully regulated and international agreements should be sought to provide safeguards and assure legal validity if and when adoptive parents intend to move a child from his or her country of birth.
    • Disabled children shall have the right to special treatment, education and care.
    • Children are entitled to the highest attainable standard of health. States shall ensure that health care is provided to all children, placing emphasis on preventive measures, health education and reduction of infant mortality.
    • Primary education shall be free and compulsory. Discipline in schools shall respect the child's dignity. Education should prepare the child for life in a spirit of understanding, peace and tolerance.
    • Children shall have time to rest and play and equal opportunities for cultural and artistic activities.
    • States shall protect children from economic exploitation and from work that may interfere with their education or be harmful to their health or well-being.
    • States shall protect children from the illegal use of drugs and involvement in drug production or trafficking.
    • All efforts shall be made to eliminate the abduction and trafficking of children.
    • Capital punishment or life imprisonment shall not be imposed for crimes committed before the age of 18.
    • Children in detention shall be separated from adults; they must not be tortured or suffer cruel or degrading treatment.
    • No child under 15 shall take any part in hostilities; children exposed to armed conflict shall receive special protection.
    • Children of minority and indigenous populations shall freely enjoy their own culture, religion and language.
    • Children who have suffered mistreatment, neglect or exploitation shall receive appropriate treatment or training for recovery and rehabilitation.
    • Children involved in infringements of the penal law shall be treated in a way that promotes their sense of dignity and worth and aims at reintegrating them into society.
    • States shall make the rights set out in the Convention widely known to both adults and children.


    (a) Name and nationality (art. 7);

    (b) Preservation of identity (art. 8);

    (c) Freedom of expression (art. 13);

    (d) Access to appropriate information (art. 17);

    (e) Freedom of thought, conscience and religion (art. 14);

    (f) Freedom of association and of peaceful assembly (art. 15);

    (g) Protection of privacy (art. 16);

    (h) The right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (art. 37 (a)).


    (a) Parental guidance (art. 5);

    (b) Parental responsibilities (art. 18, paras. I and 2);

    (c) Separation from parents (art. 9);

    (d) Family reunification (art. 10);

    (e) Recovery of maintenance for the child (art. 27, para. 4);

    (f) Children deprived of a family environment (art. 20);

    (g) Adoption (art. 21);

    (h) Illicit transfer and non-retum (art. 11);

    (i) Abuse and neglect (art. 19), including physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration (art. 39);

    (j) Periodic review of placement (art. 25).


    (a) Survival and development (art. 6, para. 2);

    (b) Disabled children (art. 23);

    (c) Health and health services (art. 24);

    (d) Social security and child-care services and facilities (art. 26 and art. 18, para. 3);

    (e) Standard of living (art. 27, paras. 1-3).


    (a) Education, including vocational training and guidance (art. 28);

    (b) Aims of education (art. 29);

    (c) Leisure, recreation and cultural activities (art. 31).


    (a) Children in situations of emergency:

    (i) Refugee children (art. 22);

    (ii) Children in armed conflicts (art. 38), including physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration (art. 39);

    (b) Children in conflict with the law:

    (1) The administration of juvenile justice (art. 40);

    (ii) Children deprived of their liberty, including any form of detention, imprisonment or placement in custodial settings (art. 37 (b), (c) and (d));

    (iii) The sentencing of juveniles, in particular the prohibition of capital punishment and life imprisonment (art. 37 (a));

    (iv) Physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration (art. 39);

    (c) Children in situations of exploitation, including physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration (art. 39):

    (i) Economic exploitation, including child labour (art. 32);

    (ii) Drug abuse (art. 33);

    (iii) Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (art. 34);

    (iv) Other forms of exploitation (art. 36);

    (v) Sale, trafficking and abduction (art. 35);

    (d) Children belonging to a minority or an indigenous group (art. 30).

    Sources and Relevant Links:

    UNHCHR International legal framework: Children's Rights

    UNHCHR Convention on the Rights of the Child

    UNHCHR Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography

    UNHCHR Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict

    UNHCHR Children's Rights

    UNHCHR Fact Sheet No.10 (Rev.1), The Rights of the Child

    UNHCHR Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography

    UNHCHR E/CN.4/2004/9 Report of the current Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography to the Commission on Human Rights

    UNHCHR Fact Sheet #27

    United Nations: Cyberschoolbus on human rights

    United Nations: Universal Declaration of Human Rights The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is available in over 300 languages.

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