What are Children’s Rights? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) details the rights to which all human beings are entitled, but indicates that children are entitled to additional rights which recognise that young people have special needs in order to ensure that they survive and develop into their full potential (1). The Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC), which came into force in September 1990, is an international human rights agreement that outlines the specific rights young people can claim (1). The CRC defines a child as any person under the age of 18 and explains the responsibilities that governments have to protect the rights of these children. All the rights are connected, they are all equally important and they cannot be taken away from a child (2).
Some of these rights include; the right to be alive, the right to their own identity, the right to freedom of thought and religion, the right to privacy, the right to protection from violence, the right to the best health care possible, clean drinking water, healthy food and a safe environment to live in, and most importantly, every child has the right to access free education.
Children’s Rights in Australia and Key Issues Faced by These Children Every five years, the Australian Government reports to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on how children are faring in Australia and what the government is doing to protect children’s rights (4). In December, 1990, Australia ratified the CRC and since, Australia has agreed to uphold the rights set out in the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC).
Fortunately most children in Australia have access to high-quality education and health services. However, indigenous children in Australia are more likely to be denied their human rights. It was reported that in June, 2012, more than 39,000 children were living in out-of-home care in Australia and indigneous children were nearly 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care compared to non-indigenous children. Further, throughout 2011 and 2012, over 37,000 children in Australia aged 0 to 17 were subject to one or more substantiations of abuse or neglect, an 18% increase since 2007. Sadly, children’s rights, particularly indigenous children’s rights, are at significant risk due to the unethical age of criminal responsibility in Australia.
The Rights of a Child Worldwide Statistically, children’s rights are best preserved and respected in Iceland, Switzerland and Finland (4). Currently, five of the worst countries in the world for children’s rights are Afghanistan, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. Sadly, this is measured on casualty rates, sexual violence perpetrated towards children, lack of education opportunities, the rate of child recruitment and child abductions. The global NGO KidsRights Index 2020 uses United Nations (UN) data to measure how children’s rights are respected worldwide, and the extent to which countries are committed to improving them (5). This global index ranks Australia as 135th based on the measures the country undertakes to protect the rights of children. The list considers mortality rates as well as life expectancy at birth and warns that most countries are failing to allocate enough money to children’s rights, this is mostly due to government’s focusing more on healthcare and the economy during the current global pandemic (6). Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 1.5 billion children have been affected by school closures, children have become more vulnerable to child labour, child marriage and teenage pregnancy. The UN states that the pandemic is having a detrimental effect on kids’ well-being and reported that an extra 42 to 66 million children are at high risk of falling into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic.
Article By Lara Demaio
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