Understanding Your Rights

Learn about the rights you have as a child as protected by the United Nations (UN).

The Convention on the Rights of the Child:


Useful words & phrases:

  • Children:
    Anyone under 18.
  • Convention:
    Another word for ‘treaty’.
  • Communication::
    The word the UN uses for a ’complaint’.
  • Optional Protocol (OP)::
    A shorter treaty which clarifies
    and/or extends another treaty.
  • Ratify:
    Agree to do what a treaty says.
  • Treaty:
    A formal agreement that a country
    can decide to accept. It can also
    be called a ‘convention’.

The UN has written several treaties which protect the rights of children (anyone under the age of 18) – the main one is the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

According to the CRC, children have a number of rights including:
  • The right to grow up in an environment where they are protected
  • The right to express themselves and have their views heard.

These rights apply to many aspects of children’s lives including family, community, education, and health.

Examples of violations of the rights included in the CRC are:
  • Being prevented from going to school, because of gender, sex, race, disability or because school uniform or books are too expensive.
  • Being separated from one or both parents (for example, through a divorce or being placed in care) without being asked how you feel about the situation and where you would prefer to live.

Optional Protocols

To explain the rights in the CRC in more detail, the United Nations has written three shorter treaties called Optional Protocols (OPs). They extend some of the rights included in the CRC and clarify how governments can respect children’s rights better.

The OPs are:

  • The Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC), which covers the situation of children in war.
  • The Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC), which covers the situation of children who are sold or sexually abused through prostitution or pornography.
  • The Optional Protocol on a Communication Procedure (OP3 CRC). This OP allows children to submit a complaint to the United Nations if their rights are not fully protected in their countries.

Resources:

Child friendly publications about Children’s rights