Convention on the Rights of the Child

Convention on the Rights of the Child


  Parties to the convention
  Only signed, but not ratified
Signed 20 November 1989[1]
Location New York City[1]
Effective 2 September 1990[1]
Condition 20 ratifications[2]
Signatories 140[1]
Parties 196[1] (all eligible states except the United States)
Depositary UN Secretary-General[3]
Languages Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish[1]
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child at Wikisource

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (commonly abbreviated as the CRC, CROC, or UNCRC) is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. The Convention defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under national legislation.[4]

Nations that ratify this convention are bound to it by international law. Compliance is monitored by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is composed of members from countries around the world. Once a year, the Committee submits a report to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which also hears a statement from the CRC Chair, and the Assembly adopts a Resolution on the Rights of the Child.[5]

Governments of countries that have ratified the Convention are required to report to, and appear before, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child periodically to be examined on their progress with regards to the advancement of the implementation of the Convention and the status of child rights in their country. Their reports and the committee's written views and concerns are available on the committee's website.

The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention and opened it for signature on 20 November 1989 (the 30th anniversary of its Declaration of the Rights of the Child).[6] It came into force on 2 September 1990, after it was ratified by the required number of nations. Currently, 196 countries are party to it,[1] including every member of the United Nations except the United States.[5][7][8]

Two optional protocols were adopted on 25 May 2000. The First Optional Protocol restricts the involvement of children in military conflicts, and the Second Optional Protocol prohibits the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Both protocols have been ratified by more than 160 states.[9][10]

A third optional protocol relating to communication of complaints was adopted in December 2011 and opened for signature on 28 February 2012. It came into effect on 14 April 2014.[11]


The Convention deals with the child-specific needs and rights. It requires that the "nations that ratify this convention are bound to it by international law". Ratifying states must act in the best interests of the child. In all jurisdictions implementing the Convention requires compliance with child custody and guardianship laws as that every child has basic rights, including the right to life, his or her own name and identity, to be raised by his or her parents within a family or cultural grouping, and to have a relationship with both parents, even if they are separated.

The Convention obliges states to allow parents to exercise their parental responsibilities. The Convention also acknowledges that children have the right to express their opinions and to have those opinions heard and acted upon when appropriate, to be protected from abuse or exploitation, and to have their privacy protected, and it requires that their lives not be subject to excessive interference.

The Convention also obliges signatory states to provide separate legal representation for a child in any judicial dispute concerning their care and asks that the child's viewpoint be heard in such cases.

The Convention forbids capital punishment for children. In its General Comment 8 (2006) the Committee on the Rights of the Child stated that there was an "obligation of all state parties to move quickly to prohibit and eliminate all corporal punishment and all other cruel or degrading forms of punishment of children".[12] Article 19 of the Convention states that state parties must "take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence",[13] but it makes no reference to corporal punishment. The Committee's interpretation of this section to encompass a prohibition on corporal punishment has been rejected by several state parties to the Convention, including Australia,[14] Canada and the United Kingdom.

The European Court of Human Rights has referred to the Convention when interpreting the European Convention on Human Rights.[15]

Global standards and cultural relativism

Global human rights standards were challenged at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna (1993) when a number of governments (prominently China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Iran) raised serious objections to the idea of universal human rights.[16] There are unresolved tensions between ‘universalistic’ and ‘relativistic’ approaches in the establishment of standards and strategies designed to prevent or overcome the abuse of children’s capacity to work.[16]

Child marriage and slavery

Some scholars link slavery and slavery-like practices for many child marriages.[17] Child marriage as slavery is not directly addressed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

States party and signatories

Currently 196 countries are parties to the treaty (some with stated reservations or interpretations). This includes every member of the United Nations (except the United States), plus the Cook Islands, Niue, the State of Palestine, and the Holy See.[5][7] The United States has not ratified it.[18] Somalia's domestic ratification finished in January 2015 and the instrument was deposited with the United Nations in October 2015.[19]

All successor states of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, and Slovakia) made declarations of succession to the treaty and currently apply it.[18]

The convention does not apply in the territories of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Gibraltar, Guernsey and Tokelau.[18]


Canada became a signatory to the Convention on 28 May 1990[20] and ratified in 1991.[21] Youth criminal laws in Canada underwent major changes resulting in the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) which went into effect on 1 April 2003. The Act specifically references Canada's different commitments under the Convention. The convention was influential in the administrative Law decision of Baker v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration).


India ratified UNCRC on 11 December 1992, agreeing in principles all articles except with certain reservations on issues relating to 'child labour'.[22] In India there is law that children under the age of 18 should not work, but there is no outright ban on child labor, and the practice is generally permitted in most industries except those deemed "hazardous".[23] Although a law in October 2006 banned child labor in hotels, restaurants, and as domestic servants, there continues to be high demand for children as hired help in the home. Current estimates as to the number of child laborers in the country range from the government's conservative estimate of 4 million children under 14 years of age[24] to the much higher estimates of children's rights activists, which hover around 60 million. Little is being done to address the problem since the economy is booming and the nuclear family is spreading, thereby increasing demand for child laborers. In India many people are still suffering from non-nutritious food, many parents are still leaving their children on riverside, in trains etc. Under the auspices of the Unicef financed Odisha initiative the Government of India is specifying the outline of a means of change and improvement in child care, and many trusts such as childLine, Plan India and savethechildren too are taking efforts to outdate child labour from India.[25] A few of the organisations who work with children's rights in India are Plan India, CRY (Child Rights and You), Save the Children, Bal Vikas Dhara-New Delhi, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, CHORD-Hyderabad.


Iran has adhered to the convention (except for alleged child slavery)[26] since 1991 and ratified it in the Parliament in 1994. Upon ratification, Iran made the following reservation: "If the text of the Convention is or becomes incompatible with the domestic laws and Islamic standards at any time or in any case, the Government of the Islamic Republic shall not abide by it."[27] Iran has also signed the both optional protocols which relate to the special protection of children against involvement in armed conflict and the sale of children and sexual exploitation.[28]

Although Iran is a state party to the Convention, international human rights organisations[29][30] and foreign governments[31] routinely denounced executions of Iranian child offenders as a violation of the treaty. But on 10 February 2012, Iran's parliament changed the controversial law of executing juveniles. In the new law, the age of 18 (solar year) would be for both genders considered the cut-off for adulthood and offenders under this age will be sentenced under a separate law.[32][33] Based on the previous Islamic law, which was revised, girls at the age of 9 and boys at 15 (lunar year, 11 days shorter than a solar year) were fully responsible for their crimes.[32]

"According to Islamic sources, the criterion for criminal responsibility is reaching the age of maturity which, according to the Shi’ite School of the IRI, is 9 lunar years (8 years and 9 months) for girls and 15 lunar years (14 years and 7 months) for boys."[34]


Ireland signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 30 September 1990 and ratified it, without reservation, on 28 September 1992.[35] In response to criticisms expressed in the 1998 review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, the Irish government established the office of Ombudsman for Children and drew up a national children's strategy. In 2006, following concerns expressed by the committee that the wording of the Irish Constitution does not allow the State to intervene in cases of abuse other than in very exceptional cases, the Irish government undertook to amend the constitution to make a more explicit commitment to children's rights.[36]


Israel ratified the Convention in 1991. In 2010, UNICEF criticized Israel for its failure to create a government-appointed commission on children's rights or to adopt a national children's rights strategy or program in order to implement various Israeli laws addressing children's rights. The report criticizes Israel for holding that the Convention does not apply in the West Bank and for defining as Palestinians under the age of 16 in the occupied territories as children, even though Israeli law defines a child as being under 18, in line with the Convention. A contemporaneous report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that Israel's investment in children is below the international average and the actual investment had fallen between 1995 and 2006.[37] In 2012, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child criticized Israel for its bombing attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, stating, "Destruction of homes and damage to schools, streets and other public facilities gravely affect children" and called them "gross violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and international humanitarian law." It also criticized Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israel which traumatized Israeli children, calling on all parties to protect children.[38]

New Zealand

New Zealand ratified the Convention on 6 April 1993 with reservations concerning the right to distinguish between persons according to the nature of their authority to be in New Zealand, the need for legislative action on economic exploitation—which it argued was adequately protected by existing law, and the provisions for the separation of juvenile offenders from adult offenders.[39]

In 1994, the Court of Appeal of New Zealand dismissed the suggestion that the Minister for Immigration and his department were at liberty to ignore the convention, arguing that this would imply that the country's adherence was "at least partly window-dressing".[40]

The Children's Commissioner Act 2003 enhanced the office of Children's Commissioner, giving it significantly stronger investigative powers.[41]

In May 2007, New Zealand passed the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007, which removed the defence of "reasonable force" for the purpose of correction. In its third and final vote, Parliament voted 113 to eight in favour of the legislation.[42]

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia ratified the Convention in 1996, with a reservation "with respect to all such articles as are in conflict with the provisions of Islamic law"[1] which is the national law. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, which reviewed Saudi Arabia's treatment of children under the Convention in January 2005, strongly condemned the government for its practice of imposing the death penalty on juveniles, calling it "a serious violation of the fundamental rights". The committee said it was "deeply alarmed" over the discretionary power judges hold to treat juveniles as adults: In its 2004 report the Saudi Arabian government had stated that it "never imposes capital punishment on persons ... below the age of 18". The government delegation later acknowledged that a judge could impose the death penalty whenever he decided that the convicted person had reached his or her majority, regardless of the person's actual age at the time of the crime or at the time of the scheduled execution.[43]

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom ratified the Convention on 16 December 1991, with several declarations and reservations,[44] and made its first report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in January 1995. Concerns raised by the Committee included the growth in child poverty and inequality, the extent of violence towards children, the use of custody for young offenders, the low age of criminal responsibility, and the lack of opportunities for children and young people to express views.[45] The 2002 report of the Committee expressed similar concerns, including the welfare of children in custody, unequal treatment of asylum seekers, and the negative impact of poverty on children's rights. In September 2008, the UK government decided to withdraw its reservations and agree to the Convention in these respects.[46][47]

The 2002 report's criticism of the legal defence of "reasonable chastisement" of children by parents, which the Committee described as "a serious violation of the dignity of the child",[48] was rejected by the UK Government. The Minister for Children, Young People and Families commented that while fewer parents are using smacking as a form of discipline, the majority said they would not support a ban.[49]

In evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Committee was criticised by the Family Education Trust for "adopting radical interpretations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in its pursuit of an agenda".[50] The Joint Committee's report recommended that "the time has come for the Government to act upon the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child concerning the corporal punishment of children and the incompatibility of the defence of reasonable chastisement with its obligations under the Convention."[51] The UK Government responded that "the use of physical punishment is a matter for individual parents to decide".[52]

Although child slavery is difficult to gauge within the UK, child slaves are imported into the UK and sold.[26]

United States

The United States government played an active role in the drafting of the Convention and signed it on 16 February 1995, but has not ratified it. It has been claimed that American opposition to the Convention stems primarily from political and religious conservatives.[53] For example, the Heritage Foundation sees "a civil society in which moral authority is exercised by religious congregations, family, and other private associations is fundamental to the American order".[54] and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) argues that the CRC threatens homeschooling.[55]

The United States had permitted the execution and life imprisonment of juvenile offenders, in contravention of the Article 37 of the Convention.[1] In 2005, a Supreme Court decision declared juvenile executions to be unconstitutional as "cruel and unusual punishment";[56][57][58] in 2012, the Court held that mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders.[59]

State laws regarding the practice of closed adoption may also require overhaul in light of the Convention's position that children have a right to identity from birth.

During his 2008 campaign for President, Senator Barack Obama described the failure to ratify the Convention as "embarrassing" and promised to review the issue[60][61] but he never did. No President of the United States has submitted the treaty to the United States Senate requesting its advice and consent to ratification since the US signed it in 1995[62]

The United States has ratified two of the optional protocols to the Convention,[9][10] the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Optional protocols

Two optional protocols were adopted by the UN General Assembly. The first, the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict requires parties to ensure that children under the age of 18 are not recruited compulsorily into their armed forces, and calls on governments to do everything feasible to ensure that members of their armed forces who are under 18 years do not take part in hostilities.[63] This protocol entered into force on 12 July 2002.[9] As of 5 December 2016, 162 states are party to the protocol and another 14 states have signed but not ratified it.[9]

The second, the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, requires parties to prohibit the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It entered into force on 18 January 2002.[10] As of 5 December 2016, 171 states are party to the protocol and another 9 states have signed but not ratified it.[10]

A third, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure, which would allow children or their representatives to file individual complaints for violation of the rights of children, was adopted in December 2011[64] and opened for signature on 28 February 2012. The protocol currently has 50 signatures and 25 ratifications: it entered into force on 14 April 2014 following the tenth ratification three months beforehand.[11]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 United Nations Treaty Collection. Convention on the Rights of the Child Archived 11 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  2. Article 49. (Deadlink)
  3. Article 47.
  4. "Convention on the Rights of the Child". Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  5. 1 2 3 Child Rights Information Network (2008). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  6. United Nations General Assembly Session 44 Resolution 25. Convention on the Rights of the Child A/RES/44/25 20 November 1989. Retrieved 22 August 2008.
  7. 1 2 Amnesty International USA (2007). Convention on the Rights of the Child: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  8. "UN convention on the rights of the child" (PDF). Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  9. 1 2 3 4 United Nations Treaty Collection: Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Retrieved on 20 October 2010.
  10. 1 2 3 4 United Nations Treaty Collection: Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Retrieved on 20 October 2010.
  11. 1 2 "UNTC". Archived from the original on 25 August 2012.
  12. General Comment 8, Committee on the Rights of the Child.
  13. Article 19, Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  14. Simalis, Linda (21 March 2010). "Aussie parents to defy UN smacking ban". The Sunday Telegraph. Sydney.
  15. Sutherland, Elaine E. (2003). "Can International Conventions Drive Domestic Law Reform? The Case of Physical Punishment of Children" in Dewar J., Parker S. (eds.) Family law: processes, practices, pressures: proceedings of the Tenth World Conference of the International Society of Family Law, July 2000, Brisbane, Australia. Oxford: Hart, p. 488. ISBN 978-1-84113-308-9
  16. 1 2 White, Ben (1999). "DEFINING THE INTOLERABLE: Child work, global standards and cultural relativism". Childhood. 6 (1): 133–144.
  17. Turner, Catherine (2013). "Out of the Shadows: Child Marriage and Slavery". Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  18. 1 2 3 "UNTC". Archived from the original on 11 February 2014.
  19. "Joint statement on Somalia's ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child". UNICEF. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  20. "Countries Compared by People > Rights of the Child Convention > Signatories. International Statistics at".
  22. United Nations Treaty Collections. "11 . Convention on the Rights of the Child". UN. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  23. "UNTC". Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  24. "Census Data on Child Labour" (PDF). Ministry of Labour & Employment, GoI. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  25. Gentleman, Amelia (18 February 2007). "Children's domestic labor resists India's legal efforts". The New York Times.
  26. 1 2 Bokhary, F.; Kelly, Emma (2010). "Child Rights, Culture and Exploitation: UK Experiences of Child Trafficking". Child Slavery Now. 2010: 145–159. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  27. "Children's Rights: Iran". Library of Congress. 4 April 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  28. "Children's Rights is Everyone's Responsibility, says UNICEF Iran Representative on CRC Anniversary" (Press release). UNICEF. 20 November 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  29. "Report on the death penalty in Iran" (PDF). International Federation of Human Rights. April 2009.
  30. "Reaction to the execution of Delera Darabi" (Press release). Human Rights Watch. May 2009.
  31. French reaction to the execution of Delera Darabi, May 2009 (French); European Union's reaction to the execution of Delera Darabi, May 2009.
  32. 1 2 "Iran changes law for execution of juveniles". Iran Independent News Service. 10 February 2012. Archived from the original on 11 February 2012.
  33. "Death penalty for people under 18 is prohibited". Ghanoon Online (in Persian). 13 February 2012. Archived from the original on 13 February 2012.
  34. Nayyeri, Mohammad Hossein (2012). "New Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran: An Overview". University of Essex: Research Paper Series.
  35. Children's Rights Alliance website.
  36. O'Brien, Carl (28 September 2006). "UN to seek changes in Constitution in support of children". Irish Times (Dublin).
  37. Or Kashti (21 November 2010). "UNICEF: Israel negligent in guarding children's rights". Haaretz (Tel Aviv).
  38. Children suffering devastating and lasting impact of Gaza crisis, says UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, United Nations Commission on Human Rights, 22 November 2012.
  39. United Nations Treaty Collection.
  40. Tavita v Minister of Immigration, 17 December 1993 [1994] 2 NZLR 257 at 265, cited in Ferdinandusse, Ward N., Direct Application of International Criminal Law in National Courts, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 161. ISBN 978-90-6704-207-9
  41. "Children's Commissioner Act 2003 No 121 (as at 29 November 2007), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011. Children's Commissioner Act 2003
  42. "Timeline: Anti-smacking legislation". TVNZ. Retrieved 11 March 2010.
  43. Saudi Arabia: Follow U.N. Call to End Juvenile Death Penalty, Human Rights Watch, 28 January 2006.
  44. Frost, Nick, Child Welfare: Major Themes in Health and Social Welfare, Taylor and Francis, 2004, p. 175; Routledge, 2005, ISBN 978-0-415-31257-8
  45. Davies, Martin, The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Social Work, Blackwell, 2000, p. 354. ISBN 978-0-631-21451-9
  46. "UK to sign UN children convention". BBC News. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 19 September 2008.
  47. Easton, Mark (19 September 2008). "UK to give up child rights opt-outs". BBC reporters blog.
  48. Harvey, Colin J., Human Rights in the Community: Rights As Agents For Change, Oxford: Hart, 2005, p. 234. ISBN 978-1-84113-446-8
  49. Hughes, Beverley, Minister for Children, Young People and Families, "Article defending the Government's position on smacking", press release, 8 October 2008.
  50. Evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, UK Parliament, 12 May 2003.
  51. House of Lords and House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights, The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Tenth Report of Session 2002–03, page 55.
  52. "Government Responses to Reports from the Committee", Session 2005-06, paras. 82, 85, 86: HL 104, HC 850.
  53. Smolin, David M. "Overcoming Religious Objections to the Convention on the Rights of the Child", Emory International Law Review, vol.20, p. 83.
  54. "Human Rights and Social Issues at the U.N.: A Guide for U.S. Policymakers", Heritage Foundation
  55. "".
  56. US Supreme Court: Roper v. Simmons, No. 03-633: 1 March 2005
  57. "Questions and Answers on the UN Special Session on Children (Human Rights Watch, May 2, 2002)".
  58. "U.S.: Supreme Court Ends Child Executions (Human Rights Watch, March 1, 2005)".
  59. Miller v. Alabama certiori to the Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama, No. 10-9646 (Argued 20 March 2012 - Decided 25 June 2012)
  60. Walden University Presidential Youth Debate, October 2008.
  61. "Child Rights Information Network".
  62. Podgers, "The Last Holdout," ABA Journal at 84 (March 2016)
  63. Yun, Seira (2014). "Breaking Imaginary Barriers: Obligations of Armed Non-State Actors Under General Human Rights Law – The Case of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child". Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies. 5 (1-2): 213–257. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  64. "UN rights chief welcomes new measure to stop violence against children". UN News Service Section. 20 December 2011.

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