More than half of the world’s refugees are children. An estimated 150+ million children are exploited as child labourers globally – that’s one in ten children. Millions of children are trafficked every year, exploited for sex, labour, or forced into marriages. These numbers are terrifying, but it is our reality – children are some of the most vulnerable groups of people which has led to the pervasiveness of their exploitation. As a result, many children around the world are still denied their most basic rights.
Despite the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) being the most ratified human rights treaty in the world, children remain some of the most vulnerable groups of people. Children are still developing which makes them susceptible to physical abuse and it also means that their logical and decision-making capacities aren’t fully developed yet. On top of that, children are dependent on the care provided by their guardians or their country. Children may also lack access to aid, education, information and money, among many other important resources for survival and protection from abuse. These factors combine to make children exceptionally vulnerable which is why they need special protections.
Many children around the world are born into poverty and without access to education, healthcare, and many other basic needs which severely affects their quality of life and impedes their development. External factors may even compound to make the situation direr for children – for example, capitalism and weak labour laws exacerbate the practice of child labour. Wars and conflicts leave many children orphaned and force them to be refugees or in some cases, even child soldiers. Their developing minds still have not reached its full potential, which makes them targets for abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.
It is evident that there’s still a long way to go in fulfilling children’s rights. Countries that have ratified the CRC are obligated to ensure all individuals under the age of 18 may enjoy their rights. Children are entitled to most human rights that adults have, in addition to specific rights that offer them protection and ensure their needs for development and survival are met. Children are to be treated as individuals and their views should be given its due weight in matters that concern them. Where children’s rights are concerned, the best interests of the child will always be the utmost priority.
Another aspect of children’s rights to consider is intergenerational equity. With Earth’s resources running scarce, we need to think about how we could ensure that our future generations – the children of today – will thrive. The idea of sustainable development is to ensure that whatever we do for our current generations now will not deprive a future generation yet to be born of their rights. A careful balance of social, economic, and environmental sustainability can help achieve intergenerational equity.
The lives of many children today are still rife with struggle and injustice, yet many countries still fail to do enough to protect children. Children’s rights need to be better protected because their development is crucial to the future of our world.
Photo from Bangkok Post.