What are the rights of children in vulnerable situations? Why are they important?
Children have all human rights too. Not because they are the "adults of tomorrow" or "the future", but because they are human beings today. Children can also be made more vulnerable than other people because of their young age and dependence on adults, so they have specific rights to protect them.
Some children are especially vulnerable to violations of their rights because of an aspect of their identity or circumstances, such as having a disability or because they have no family. These children are more likely to experience violence and sexual abuse, child labour, and denial of their civil and political rights. The right to non-discrimination is also important here, particularly for girls and minority groups.
Disabled children, refugee children (particularly those who are alone) and children in conflict with the law are just some examples of children afforded special protection under the Convention of the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments.
It must be remembered that these children have all human rights, including all those in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and not just those specific to their situation.
Relevant articles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) dealing with children in vulnerable situations:
· Non-discrimination (article 2): All rights apply to all children without exception. It is the State's obligation to protect children from any form of discrimination and to take positive action to promote their rights.
· Protection of a child without family (article 20): The State is obliged to provide special protection for a child deprived of the family environment and to ensure that appropriate alternative family care or institutional placement is available in such cases. Efforts to meet this obligation shall pay due regard to the child's cultural background.
· Adoption (article 21): In countries where adoption is recognised and/or allowed, it shall only be carried out in the best interests of the child, and then only with the authorization of competent authorities, and safeguards for the child.
· Refugee children (article 22): Special protection shall be granted to a refugee child or to a child seeking refugee status. It is the State's obligation to co-operate with competent organisations which provide such protection and assistance.
· Children with disabilities (article 23): A disabled child has the right to special care, education and training to help him or her enjoy a full and decent life with dignity, and achieve the greatest degree of self-reliance and social integration possible.
· Periodic review of placement (article 25): A child who is placed by the State for reasons of care, protection or treatment is entitled to have that placement evaluated regularly.
· Children of minorities or indigenous populations (article 30): Children of minority communities and indigenous populations have the right to enjoy their own culture and to practise their own religion and language.