Abuses Against Children Persist Despite Rights Convention

By Lisa Schlein

October 8, 2009 / voanews

Child rights advocates have kicked off more than a month of global activities leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Convention, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on November 20, 1989, is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty.  Every country in the world, except the United States and Somalia, has ratified it. 

Before the Convention on the Rights of the Child came into force in 1989, most of the world thought children should be seen and not heard.  Now, 20 years later, some of their voices are being heard, but their rights continue to be violated.

"I believe every child has the right to feel safe, protected from armed conflict, abuse, child labor, trafficking, exploitation.  It is really very simple.  No child should have to suffer at the hands of others.  Not one," says UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Hollywood actress, Mia Farrow, who has been fighting for the rights of children for years.  She is one of several Goodwill Ambassadors who have lent their fame to this video to speak out on behalf of the millions of children who continue to be cruelly taken advantage of.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expresses her admiration of the Convention.  At the same time, she acknowledges the gaps in the implementation of the rights and protections enshrined in this document.

With the adoption of the Convention, she notes the international community unanimously recognized for the first time in history that children are not simply the property of their parents or guardians, but are in charge of their own destiny.

"However, despite this widespread support for, and awareness of the rights of the child, there persist severe violations, including violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, child trafficking and forced labor," says Pillay. "Also tragically evident are those multiple and overlapping forms of discrimination that affect girls, children with disabilities and those from minority and indigenous populations, street children, children in conflict with the law, refugee and migrant children."  

Pillay says some of the most pervasive forms of discrimination and exploitation experienced by children have become more widespread and known since the adoption of the Convention.

Deputy Executive Director of the U.N. Children's Fund, Saad Houry, agrees that the reality does not always live up to the Convention's vision of a world that is made safe for all children.  He says millions of children remain excluded from that dream.

"Despite remarkable economic growth in scores of countries over the past 20 years, shocking disparities are also growing, with the poorest children left further behind," said Houry.  "The occasion of the CRC's (Convention on the Rights of the Child) 20th anniversary is an opportunity for us all to reflect upon the injustice of such disparities, and to rededicate our efforts to realizing the rights of these excluded children, as well as to sustain the gains made to date."  

Houry says governments must enact laws that protect the rights of children.  And, children, he says must know and understand their rights, so they can claim them.

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UNCRC v FFOA

The fact the United States has not ratified the UNCRC is a heavily discussed issue and it will even become a more heated issue when it will be introduced in the Senate, whenever that will happen. So far the opposition against ratfication seems to be more active that the proponents of the UNCRC.

Although the debate focuses on certain articles, the underlying reason lies not so much in the UNCRC itself, as well as the role of the federal government with regards to children. Ratifying the UNCRC makes the rights of children a federal issue, while parental rights are a state issue. There are those that like to see the federal government more actively involved in children's rights, there are those that are adamently opposed to federal influence in state affairs.

In that sense it's ironic how the USA itself would never be eligible for the support proposed to foreign countries in The Families for Orphans Act 2009 (FFOA). The federal government can never make the guarantees it asks of others, because it has no authority on these issues.

Wouldn't it behoove the federal goverment to first ratify the UNCRC, before asking other countries to accept agreements over children's rights issues?

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