What rights are unique to children?

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a uniquely broad instrument covering children’s civil, political and economic, social and cultural rights, as well as various protections, such as from violence. Many of the rights safeguarded by it are not covered by provisions in what is referred to as the "International Bill of Human Rights" - consisting of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Some articles in the CRC mirror guarantees established for "everyone" in the International Bill of Human Rights or other instruments, underlining that these rights apply equally to children. But many other provisions in the Convention, including the following, provide unique rights for children:

  • Right to protection from all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of status, activities, expressed opinions or beliefs of the child’s parents, guardians or family members; also added disability and ethnic origin to specifically prohibited grounds for discrimination against children (article 2)
  • Best interests of the child to be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children (article 3 (1))
  • States to ensure the child protection and care necessary for his/her welfare, taking account of rights and duties of parents, etc. (article 3 (2))
  • Institutions, services and facilities for care and protection of children to conform to established standards (article 3 (3))
  • State respect for appropriate guidance by parents and others in the child’s exercise of their rights, respecting the child’s evolving capacities (article 5)
  • Obligation to ensure maximum survival and development of the child (article 6)
  • Right of the child to know and be cared for by parents (article 7)
  • Preservation of the child’s identity (article 8)
  • Right not to be separated from parents unless in best interests with judicial review; right of all interested parties to participate in hearings; right to retain relations and contact with both parents unless contrary to best interests (article 9)
  • States obligations in relation to children and parents entering or leaving a state for purposes of family reunification, etc, (article 10)
  • Obligations to prevent abduction and non-return of children abroad (article 11)
  • Obligation to give due weight to children’s expressed views in all matters affecting the child; also to provide opportunity for child to be heard in any judicial or administrative proceedings affecting the child (article 12)
  • Child’s right to freedom of religion, with respect for parents’ rights to provide direction to the child in the exercise of this right, consistent with the child’s evolving capacities (article 14)
  • Obligation to ensure the child’s access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources (article 17)
  • Obligations to support parents in their child-rearing responsibilities, by provision of child care services; also child’s best interests to be parents basic concern (article 18)
  • Right to protection from all forms of physical or mental violence while in the care of parents or others (article 19)
  • Special protection rights for children deprived of family environment (article 20)
  • Specific obligations and safeguards relating to adoption (article 21)
  • Special protection for refugee children and those seeking refugee status (article 22)
  • Disabled children’s right to special care facilitating child’s active participation (article 23)
  • Right of access for child to health-care services and obligations to take specific measures for health; protection from traditional practices prejudicial to health (article 24)
  • Right of child cared for outside family to periodic review of care, protection or treatment (article 25)
  • Obligation to recover maintenance from those having financial responsibility for the child (article 27)
  • School discipline consistent with the child’s human dignity, etc (article 28 (2))
  • Detailed aims defined for the education of the child (article 29)
  • Protection of the right of indigenous child to enjoy their culture, religion and language (article 30)
  • Right to rest, leisure and play (article 31)
  • Specific protection from economic exploitation and hazardous/harmful work (article 32)
  • Obligations to protect children from illicit use of, and involvement in production and trafficking of, drugs (article 33)
  • Specific protection from sexual exploitation and abuse including child pornography (article 34)
  • Specific obligations to prevent abduction, sale and trafficking of children (article 35)
  • Prohibition of life imprisonment of children without possibility of release; arrest, detention, imprisonment of the child only as a last resort and for shortest appropriate period (article 37)
  • Specific limitations on recruitment and involvement of children in armed conflict (article 38)
  • Rights of child victims to measures for recovery and social reintegration (article 39)
  • Distinct aims for juvenile justice systems and rights of children involved (article 40)
  • Obligations to make principles and provisions of Convention widely known to adults and children alike (article 42)

The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict add further unique rights and safeguards. There is also the Optional Protocol on a complaints mechanism for children to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which means cases of children’s rights violations can be brought to the Committee.