Convention on the Rights of the Child: Definition & History

Instructor: Vericia Miller

Vericia has a masters in criminal justice.

In this lesson, you will learn more about the Convention on the Rights of the Child. You will learn, more specifically, about its purpose and how it was designed to help children across the world.

What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child?

In most countries, children are valued as special and vulnerable beings in need of a higher level of protection and security. A child is not always able to comprehend and process information on the same level as an adult, which is why, in most countries, laws are passed or adopted to guarantee a child's rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is one such treaty. Let's take a closer look at what the CRC is.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a treaty (international agreement between countries) which was adopted on November 20, 1989. It recognizes the individual rights of all children in the world. According to the treaty, a child is defined as anyone under the age of 18. The purpose of the CRC is to bring awareness to issues children face across the world, including genital mutilation, forced marriage, malnutrition, health, and issues of sexual exploitation. Its purpose is also to place pressure on countries to pass laws/policies that recognize the rights of children and protect them from harm, abuse or mistreatment. According to the treaty,' 'The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.'' All of the provisions of the treaty support this belief.

The United States and the CRC

There are currently 196 countries signed onto the treaty, including the United States, which signed it in 1995. However, the U.S. has not ratified (upheld) the conditions of the treaty. In order for the treaty to be ratified in the states, two-thirds of the Senate would have to agree to it. What's the problem? The conflict for Congress is the belief that the CRC trumps constitutional law. The Constitution gives each state the freedom to pass its own laws regarding child rights. It is the belief, by some members of Congress, that the Convention on the Rights of the Child would usurp the Constitution and states rights. There is also the belief that if the treaty was adopted in the U.S., parental rights would be invalidated by the rights of the child. It appears that there is a fear that, though parents would still have rights and authority over their children, they would be minimized in some ways. The United States already has laws, within each state, that recognizes the rights of children and protects them from harm. Not only are these laws on the books, but they are strictly enforced in most cases. With that being said, there is always room for improvement.

Iran and the CRC

Iran signed onto the treaty in 1991. However, the government also stated that the wording of the treaty must support or coincide with Islamic law; if not, the country will not adhere to it. Though the government has made some progress in its treatment of children, it continues to be one of the leading countries in the world that continues to execute minors. According to the CRC, no child under the age of 18 can be put to death or receive a sentence of life in prison. Though the treaty has been signed and implemented in Iran, not much has changed. Within a 10 year period (2005-2015), there were 73 documented cases of executions of minors. Can you imagine being 16-years-old and on death row? Imagine living in a country where some offenses could possibly place you there.

In 2015, a young lady by the name of Fatemeh Salbehi was hanged while in prison for a crime she committed when she was 17- years-old. Another young lady by the name of Sowgand (16-years-old) is currently on death row due to drugs being in her home at the time it was raided. The Iranian police found heroin and cocaine in the home, none of which was hers. The drugs belonged to her father, but because she was the only one in the house at the time, she was solely responsible. These are the types of situations that the CRC is supposed to protect children from.

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