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Human Rights Watch: Children's Rights

Sunday, July 25, 2004
Human Rights Watch: Children's Rights
Children around the world suffer appalling abuses. Too often, street children are killed or tortured by police. Children as young as seven or eight are recruited or kidnapped to serve as soldiers in military forces. Sometimes as young as six years old, children are forced to work under extremely difficult conditions, often as bonded laborers or in forced prostitution. They are imprisoned in inhumane conditions, sometimes in cells with adults. They are often brutalized by guards or not protected from assaults by other inmates. Refugee children, often separated from their families, are vulnerable to exploitation, sexual abuse, or domestic violence. Ironically, within the care of the state, children are often subject to abuse and mistreatment--orphaned and abandoned children are housed in appalling institutions where they suffer from cruelty and neglect; many die. For many students, life in and outside of the classroom is intolerable--at the hands of peers and teachers, many children suffer under acts of discrimination, abuse, sexual violence, and harassment. In many countries, teachers are allowed to use corporal punishment on children. Children are discriminated against in education because of their race or ethnicity. Children orphaned or otherwise affected by HIV/AIDS are discriminated against and often are left to fend for themselves.

In the past, this huge and largely voiceless population has fallen through the cracks in the international human rights arena. Traditional children's humanitarian groups have focused mainly on vital survival and development projects, and have rarely addressed other human rights concerns because they could not afford to antagonize host governments. Human rights groups have focused chiefly on the rights of adults. As the human rights movement was founded out of concern for political dissidents, it has sometimes overlooked those--like children--whose persecution is unrelated to their political views.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child put children's rights on the world's agenda; it is the most widely ratified treaty in the world. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989, the Convention promises children around the world the right to life, liberty, education, and health care. It provides protection to children in armed conflict, protection from discrimination, protection from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, protection within the justice system, and protection from economic exploitation, in addition to many other fundamental protections. Despite the convention's near-universal ratification (only the U.S. and Somalia have not ratified it), children are still denied their basic rights.
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    7/25/2004 01:42:00 PM :: ::
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