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Convention on the Rights of the Child

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Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention on the Rights of the Child.svg
  Parties to the convention
  Only signed, but not ratified
Signed 20 November 1989
Location New York
Effective 2 September 1990
Condition 20 ratifications
Signatories 140
Parties 193(all United Nations member states, as well as Niue and the Cook Islands, except Somalia, South Sudan and the United States)
Depositary UN Secretary-General
Languages Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish
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 setting 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 a state's own domestic legislation.

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.

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). It came into force on 2 September 1990, after it was ratified by the required number of nations. Currently, 193 countries are party to it, including every member of the United Nations except Somalia, South Sudan and the United States. Somalia's cabinet ministers had announced plans in late 2009 to ratify the treaty.

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 150 states.

A third optional protocol relating to communication of complaints was adopted in December 2011 and opened for signature on 28 February 2012.


The Convention deals with the child-specific needs and rights. It requires that states act in the best interests of the child. This approach is different from the common law approach found in many countries that had previously treated children as possessions or chattels, ownership of which was sometimes argued over in family disputes.

In many jurisdictions, properly implementing the Convention requires an overhaul of child custody and guardianship laws, or, at the very least, a creative approach within the existing laws. The Convention acknowledges that every child has certain 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 States parties to move quickly to prohibit and eliminate all corporal punishment and all other cruel or degrading forms of punishment of children". 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", but it makes no reference to corporal punishment, and the Committee's interpretation on this point has been explicitly rejected by several States Party to the Convention, including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The European Court of Human Rights has made reference to the Convention when interpreting the European Convention on Human Rights.

States party and signatories

Currently 193 countries have ratified, accepted, or acceded to it (some with stated reservations or interpretations) including every member of the United Nations except Somalia, and the United States. Both Somalia and the United States have signed the document but have not ratified it. Somalia had announced in late 2009 that it would eventually do so.


Australia is a member of the convention since 1950.


Canada became a signatory to the convention on May 28, 1990 and ratified the Convention in 1991. Prior to ratifying the treaty, Canada's laws were either largely or entirely in conformity with the treaty. 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 following administrative Law decision of Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration).


In India, there is no outright ban on child labor, and the practice is generally permitted in most industries except those deemed "hazardous". 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 12 million children under 13 years of age 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. Under the auspices of the Unicef financed Udisha initiative the Government of India is specifying the outline of a means of change and improvement in child care.

There are severe restrictions on children in India on their rights to have a relationship with both parents, when they are separated/divorced, especially when laws to protect women & children (such as Domestic Violence Act, 2006 or Sec.498A of Indian Penal Code) are abused or misused by women. The mother is provided custody by default with the child's access to the father not available or enforced in practice, even when there is a Court order to the effect. As a result, children's rights are often under-represented.


Islamic Republic of Iran has adhered to the convention on 1991 and ratified it in the Parliament in 1994. Iran, however, has 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.” 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.

Although the Islamic Republic of Iran is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, international human rights organisations and foreign governments routinely denounced executions of Iranian child offenders as a violation of the treaty. But on the Feb. 10, 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 and juvenile offenders will be sentenced on a separate law than of adults.” Based on the Islamic law which now seems to have been revised, girls at the age of 9 and boys at 15 of lunar year (11 days shorter than a solar year) were fully responsible for their crimes.


The Republic of Ireland signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 30 September 1990 and ratified it, without reservation, on 28 September 1992. 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.


Israel ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child 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. 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.

New Zealand

New Zealand ratified the Convention 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.

In 1994, the Court of Appeal 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'.

The Children's Commissioner Act 2003 enhanced the office of Children's Commissioner, giving them significantly stronger investigative powers.

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 votes 113 to eight in favour of the legislation.

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' and considers it to be a valid source of domestic 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 Arabia 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.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom ratified the Convention on 16 December 1991, with several declarations and reservations, 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. 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 give up its reservations and agree to the Convention in these respects.

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', 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.

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". 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." The UK Government responded that "the use of physical punishment is a matter for individual parents to decide".

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, and will not be able in the near future because the Convention forbids both death sentences and life imprisonment for children . Along with Somalia (which does not have a proper government) and South Sudan (the most recent independent country), the United States is one of only three countries in the world which have not ratified the Convention. It has been claimed that opposition to the Convention stems primarily from political and religious conservatives. For example, the Heritage Foundation sees it as threatening national control over domestic policy and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) argues that the CRC threatens homeschooling. President Barack Obama has described the failure to ratify the Convention as 'embarrassing' and had promised to review this.

The United States has signed and ratified two of the optional protocols to the Convention, 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 on 25 May 2000. The first, the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, requires governments to ensure that children under the age of eighteen 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 eighteen years of age do not take part in hostilities. This protocol entered into force on 12 July 2002; currently, 151 states are party to the protocol and another 20 states have signed but not ratified it.

The second, the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, requires states to prohibit the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It entered into force on 18 January 2002; currently, 163 states are party to the protocol and another 13 states have signed but not ratified it.

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 and opened for signature on 28 February 2012. The protocol currently has 35 signatures and three ratifications: it will enter into force on the tenth ratification.

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