Understanding Child Rights

Introduction

Children’s rights are the basic human rights to which children are entitled. These rights are based on the principle that every child is a unique individual with inherent dignity who should be treated with respect and protected from harm.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ( UNCRC ), 1989 outlines child rights, and is a legally binding international agreement that sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child. It provides a framework for national and international action on children’s rights and outlines the obligations of governments, communities and individuals to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of children.

Read: Pakistan’s ratification of International Treaties dealing with children’s rights

Categories of Children’s Rights

The UNCRC recognises four broad categories of children’s rights:

Survival rights

These rights relate to a child’s basic survival needs and include the right to life, access to health care, clean water and sanitation, and adequate nutrition, including in situations of disasters and emergencies.

Development Rights

These rights relate to the overall development of the child and include the right to education, play, rest and recreational activities. These rights are critical to a child’s physical, emotional and intellectual growth and development.

Protection rights

These rights relate to the protection of children from abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence. Protection rights also include the right to legal protection, the right not to be discriminated against and the right to a safe and caring environment.

Read also Child Sexual Abuse, Child Labour, Child Marriage, Juvenile Justice, Street Children  

Participation Rights

These rights refer to the child’s right to participate in decisions affecting their lives, to express their views and opinions and to have their voice heard. Participation rights also include the right to freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion, and the right to access information.

These categories are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. For example, access to health care and adequate nutrition is critical to a child’s survival and development, and the protection of a child’s rights is essential to his or her overall well-being and participation in society.

Why are children’s rights important?

The importance of children’s rights is rooted in the fact that children are vulnerable and need special protection and support. By recognising and respecting children’s rights, we ensure that every child has the opportunity to grow up in a safe and caring environment and have access to education, health care and other basic needs. This helps to promote their physical, emotional and intellectual development and prepare them to become responsible and productive members of society.

Implementation of Child Rights in Pakistan

Pakistan is a signatory to the UNCRC, 1989 and recognises the rights of children to survival, development, protection and participation. 

Pakistan has made some progress in implementing the UNCRC, but many challenges remain and the state needs to do much more to ensure that all children in the country enjoy their rights. Stronger implementation and enforcement of laws and policies, as well as increased investment in education, healthcare and child protection, are essential to address the challenges facing children in Pakistan.

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