Everyone has human rights, but children also have child rights. These are vital extra protections from birth to the age of majority (age 18 in the UK). Child rights come mostly through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989, the most ratified human rights treaty in the world. By ratifying this Convention, governments agree that for any society to be strong, its children need to flourish.
Child rights include the freedom to speak out and express opinions, as well as rights to equality, health, education, a clean environment, a safe place to live and protection from all kinds of harm.
What's the problem?
There is often a huge gap between a child’s rights in principle, and what happens in practice.
There are about 2.3 billion children in the world, nearly a third of the total human population. Their rights are violated every day. Children and young people are exposed to rights violations because they are dependent on adults, which can heighten risk. Children are likely to form the group at highest risk of poverty, malnourishment and abuse, and are often disproportionately impacted by human rights crises.
In 2019, for example, one in six children globally were living in extreme poverty, putting them at greater risk of domestic violence, child labour, sexual exploitation, teenage pregnancy and child marriage. This number rose significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Know your rights?
Under Article 42 of the Convention, governments make a commitment to educate all children and adults about child rights.
Yet a 2021 YouGov poll found that 83 per cent of British children felt they know little or nothing about their own rights. Meanwhile only 16 per cent of British adults knew that children have more rights than adults do.
Ignorance of rights puts children and young people at greater risk of abuse, discrimination and exploitation. Knowledge is key. Knowledge empowers children to feel part of an international community and to claim their rights, for themselves and others.
New book: Know your rights and claim them
Order your book here or from all good bookshops. Amnesty, Angelina Jolie and Professor Geraldine Van Bueren QC have co-written a new child rights book for teenagers, out on 2 September 2021.
Know Your Rights and Claim Them explains child rights and how they came into being. It shows how governments are failing to uphold them and celebrates the powerful work of child activists around the world. It provides tools on navigating the law, staying safe, taking action and claiming rights. It even includes how-to-guides, such as what to do if you are pepper sprayed at a protest, how to talk to the police if you are arrested, how to be a trans or non-binary ally, and steps to take if you see or experience abuse.
Join the book launch
Come to the launch of Know Your Rights and Claim Them on 2 September. Angelina Jolie will be in conversation with young activists Muhammad Najem, Aisha Saleh and Vinuki Bakmeedeniya. Free to join and available to watch until 2 October.
Take the child rights course
Find out more by taking our free introductory child rights course, for educators, other adults and interested young people. It is online, takes 90 minutes, and includes interviews with child activists.