The United Nations Convention On The Rights Of Children

What is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child?
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a treaty built to include all cultures and legal systems in order to protect the civil, economic, political, cultural and social rights of children. The convention is based on the principle that children are born with non-negotiable fundamental rights. It has given children over 40 fundamental freedoms which when ratified, puts a duty on countries to respect, protect and implement these rights. The convention is extremely important as it lists all the rights of a child in one place by providing an international framework with no discrimination.

What does the Convention contain?
The convention contains 54 articles based on the principles of human dignity and the holistic development of a child. Articles 1-41 contain the substantive rights under the Convention. Articles 42-54 contain how the implementation and monitoring of the convention works.
There are three optional protocols under the Convention – one on the involvement of children in armed conflict, one on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the third on enabling provision for children whose rights have been violated to complain directly to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). UNCRC underlines the key areas of rights such as protection, provisions and participation.

What considerations does the Convention have for children with disabilities?
Article 23 of the Convention specifically deals with children with disabilities. Here are some provisions:

  1. Children with disabilities have the right to a ‘full and decent life’ in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community. To this end, the right of the child to ‘special care’ is encouraged and States are to ensure, subject to available resources, that all assistance is provided to this end, free of cost, where appropriate
  2. The State shall ensure that children have effective access to and receive education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner conducive to the child’s achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual development
  3. As developing countries face greater struggles in providing services to children with disabilities, States are to promote among themselves the exchange of appropriate information in the field of preventive health care and of medical, psychological and functional treatment of disabled children, including dissemination of and access to information concerning methods of rehabilitation, education and vocational services

However, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is much more expansive in terms of the rights of children with disabilities.

What is the authority of the Convention in India?
Once the convention has been ratified, as has been done in India, the State has the obligation to implement the full range of human rights under the Convention. As it is a legally binding instrument, States have agreed to be held accountable to the international community and must develop legislations and mechanisms to ensure its implementation.
In India, amendments to various laws like the laws relating to child marriages, and new laws like the Juvenile Justice Act and the Right to Education Act have come into force in furtherance of the State obligations under this Convention.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors the implementation of the Convention and the optional protocols by States. India has not ratified the Optional Protocol and so individuals cannot file complaints under these mechanisms.
However, civil society can participate in the reporting and State evaluation process by filing their ‘parallel reports’ before the Committee during the reporting cycle. Parallel reports are the civil society version of the situation regarding implementation of a Convention which is used to test the State account of implementation and hold them to account. This will highlight the failures of the State to implement the Convention, in which case the Committee can make observations and recommendations to the State party to provoke implementation of the Convention. For instance, the National Disability Network of India submitted a parallel report regarding the implementation of the CRC with respect to children with disability which can be found here.