In an effort to create a universally accepted set of children’s rights, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in November 1989. This document promises children the basic human rights of life and liberty, as well as access to education and health care. It also calls for protection against discrimination and abuse, protection from economic exploitation, and protection against torture.
While children’s rights have become more visible since then, there are still many instances around the world of children’s rights violations.
The United States did sign the Convention in 1995 but it was never submitted to the Senate for ratification. Although the government has stated that it has no intention of ratifying the Convention, it has consistently reaffirmed its commitment to children’s rights.
Among the reason the United States has failed to ratify the Convention is the fact that the Convention clearly states that anyone under the age of 18 is a child. The U.S. government has reservations about how that would affect matters when a 16- or 17-year old commits a crime; currently, in certain instances that child can be tried as an adult. Also, the United States Government says that many of the declarations included in the document are not issues for which the federal government is in charge. For example, education in the United States is controlled by the states, not the federal government.
Whether the United States eventually ratifies the Convention, it still does maintain an enviable record of honoring most children’s rights. Human rights groups are convinced that the United States can and should do more, and they continue to make their points of view known in the United States and abroad.