Children's rights are the human rights of children with particular attention to the rights of special protection and care afforded to minors. The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) defines a child as "any human being below the age of eighteen years, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier." Children's rights includes their right to association with both parents, human identity as well as the basic needs for physical protection, food, universal state-paid education, health care, and criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child, equal protection of the child's civil rights, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of the child's race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, color, ethnicity, or other characteristics. Interpretations of children's rights range from allowing children the capacity for autonomous action to the enforcement of children being physically, mentally and emotionally free from abuse, though what constitutes "abuse" is a matter of debate. Other definitions include the rights to care and nurturing. There are no definitions of other terms used to describe young people such as "adolescents", "teenagers", or "youth" in international law, but the children's rights movement is considered distinct from the youth rights movement. The field of children's rights spans the fields of law, politics, religion, and morality.
They are abandoned. They do not get a chance to step in a school. They are left to fend for themselves on the streets. They suffer from many forms of violence. They do not have access to even primary healthcare. They are subjected to cruel and inhumane treatments every day. They are children – innocent, young and beautiful – who are deprived of their rights. In the history of human rights, the rights of children are the most ratified. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines Child Rights as the minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be afforded to every citizen below the age of 18 regardless of race, national origin, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origin, wealth, birth status, disability, or other characteristics.
These rights encompass freedom of children and their civil rights, family environment, necessary healthcare and welfare, education, leisure and cultural activities and special protection measures. The UNCRC outlines the fundamental human rights that should be afforded to children in four broad classifications that suitably cover all civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of every child:
Right to Survival:
• Right to be born.
• Right to minimum standards of food, shelter and clothing.
• Right to live with dignity.
• Right to health care, to safe drinking water, nutritious food, a clean and safe environment, and information to help them stay healthy.
Right to Protection:
• Right to be protected from all sorts of violence.
• Right to be protected from neglect.
• Right to be protected from physical and sexual abuse.
Right to Participation:
• Right to freedom of opinion.
• Right to freedom of expression.
• Right to freedom of association.
• Right to information.
• Right to participate in any decision making that involves him/her directly or indirectly.
Right to Development:
• Right to education.
• Right to learn.
• Right to relax and play.
• Right to all forms of development – emotional, mental and physical.
Children’s rights include the right to health, education, family life, play and recreation, an adequate standard of living and to be protected from abuse and harm. Children’s rights cover their developmental and age-appropriate needs that change over time as a child grows up.
There are four general principles that underpin all children’s rights:
- Non-discrimination means that all children have the same right to develop their potential in all situations and at all times. For example, every child should have equal access to education regardless of the child’s gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, parentage, sexual orientation or other status.
- The best interests of the child must be "a primary consideration" in all actions and decisions concerning a child, and must be used to resolve conflicts between different rights. For example, when making national budgetary decisions affecting children, Government must consider how cuts will impact on the best interests of the child
- The right to survival and development underscores the vital importance of ensuring access to basic services and to equality of opportunity for children to achieve their full development. For example, a child with a disability should have effective access to education and health care to achieve their full potential
- The views of the child mean that the voice of the child must be heard and respected in all matters concerning his or her rights. For example, those in power should consult with children before making decisions that will affect them.