Rights cannot be overemphasized, as it is a privilege enjoyed by each and every citizen in the country. A right is a legal requirement and civil liberty which everyone naturally must have irrespective of the gender, religion, culture, tribe, race, disability, status or citizenship of the individual. Rights are constitutional and must be adhered to by the citizens and the government of the country.
Everyone is entitled to enjoy his or her right and with the constitution in place which duly outlines the rights of citizens from citizens to the adults and the aged, it would, therefore, be unlawful and inappropriate if such rights are not acknowledged.
Rights can only be void or restrained when a citizen does not adhere to the laws stipulated in the constitution whereby, he or she has to be reprimanded.
Focusing on child rights, therefore, would require also stating who a child is. The definitions of a child will be discussed in subsequent pages by different individuals and bodies. However, for the purpose of an introduction, a simple definition would be needed.
Based on age, a child is a person who falls between the ages of 0(from birth to a year)- 17 years. Everyone has a view on who a child is on different bases. In fact, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross contrast themselves in the definition of a child.
Child Rights, continue to be an issue of universal investigation as these rights are often violated and it is essential to imprint these rights in the minds of citizens to avoid their violation. Child Rights, from the definitions of a right and a child, can therefore be said to be those privileges enjoyed and accredited to persons between the ages of 0 to 17 years which is legal requirement.
Children cover about 27% of the world population and it is a necessity to recognize their rights. As children are still growing and developing, they are especially vulnerable and could be severely and permanently affected by the infringements of their rights ((UNICEF), United Nations Chidren’s Fund; (ICJ), International Commission of Jurists, 2015).
Over the years, cases have risen concerning the violation of child rights both by parents and fellow citizens straight from exploitation to moral and material neglect, torture or inhuman treatment, slavery or servitude to performance of forced compulsory labor; the list is definitely endless and some of these violations will be treated. Hence, it would be safe to say that there is a need to address some legal backings or provisions safeguarding these rights to protect the children and avoid further violations or infringements.
As stated in the introduction, different bodies have definitions of a child which differ in their own way.
According to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child is a person below the age of eighteen years except in the law applicable to the child, the age of majority is attained earlier. Also, the Labour Act defines a child as a person under the age of twelve years and a young person under the age of fourteen years. The Children and Young Person’s Act, defined a child as a person under the age of fourteen years and a young person to mean “a person who has attained the age of fourteen years and is under the age of seventeen years. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child defined a child as “every human being below the age of eighteen years”.
The International Committee of the Red Cross defines a child as an unaccompanied minor below 15 years of age and not being accompanied by an adult.
From the definitions above, one can not really define the specifically who a child is and this has caused different misconception to arise over time both in the day-to-day activities of citizens and in legal activities concerning children. However, the acceptable definition applicable for legal proceedings is that of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Rights in this context, are those that belong to humans; Human rights are those rights that belong to every individual- men or women, girl or boy, infant or elder- simply because she or he is a human being. They embody the basic standards without which people cannot realize their inherent human dignity. Human Rights are universal, therefore, no has to earn or deserve them. Rights are inalienable, one cannot lose their rights unless he or she ceases to be a human being. Human Rights are both abstract and practical as they hold up the inspiring vision of a free, just, and peaceful world and set minimum standards for both individuals and institutions should treat people. They also empower people to take action to demand and defend their rights and the rights of others.
The United Nations being an international organization is committed to maintaining peace, security and to promote human rights; and one of the ways this is done is by international human rights agreements also known as treaties.
The United Nations came up with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt. At that time, the world was very different place. Years of war had left the better part of two continents in disarray. A geopolitical reordering saw an Iron Curtain fall across a continent and a Cold War rise across the globe. And the world was waking up to the unconscionable horrors of the Holocaust. From the ruins of the Second World War came a call to enshrine fundamental human rights. Facilitating this moment of global introspection was a Philosophers’ Committee under the direction of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Committee enlisted leading thinkers – from Mahatma Gandhi to Aldous Huxley – to contribute their insights about a proposed Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The work of the Philosophers’ Committee was then passed to the UN Human Rights Commission.
Human rights have in one way or another brought about peace in the world today as it has helped in promoting good governance in some parts of the world. Individuals across globe benefit from human rights treaties and can be called right holders.
As stated above, everyone has human rights, and children as humans enjoy some of the international rights in the human rights treaties and can be classified as rights holders.
However, child rights infringement has become a matter of both national and international concern. Different programs have been put in place to ensure that these vices are curbed. The field of human rights relative to children’s rights, is more developed.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has also deemed it worthy to stipulate laws that would safeguard children from violations of their rights, one of which is:
• The state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that children, young persons and the aged are protected against exploitation whatsoever, and against moral and material neglect.
The child under this constitution includes a step-child, a lawfully adopted child, a child born out of wedlock and any child to whom an individual stand in place of a parent.
Statistics shows that children have been constantly involved in the growing prevalence of exploitative and hazardous forms of child labour, and related child trafficking, as well as begging. Some female children suffer from sexual exploitation and commercial sex work, including across borders; child marriages also affect girls mainly in the northern part of Nigeria. From the diagram above, one can clearly justify the fact that there has been lack of effective mechanisms to get rid or reduce the issue of child trafficking globally.
Children have the right to be loved and protected and to be treated with care and respect, to experience a sense of belonging and safety in their family, community, and nation, to express their opinions and ideas. Most times, this is not the case for some children as there is reluctance to allow these children to participate progressively in decisions as their maturity develops.
Children must be in schools and not at work, redeemed from the world of drudgery and the monotony of mindless activity. They must be in schools and not at work, as only then they would be investing in their own well-being and growth not be subjected to exploitation which creates assets and wealth for the exploiter. Children must be in schools and not at work, so that they do not live precarious lives as marginalised citizens unable to access their rights and fulfil their potential. Children must be in schools and not at work in order to access their right to education and all their entitlements to recreation, sports, co-curricular activities, health and noon-meals. Children must be in schools and not at work so that they develop confidence to make informed choices contributing to their own communities and the world they live in as enlightened citizens. Children must be in schools and not at work to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty and ignorance. Children must be in schoolslearning to think, explore, discover, question and acquire knowledge to be one among us, enriching and liberating themselves, paving the path for future generations of children and in the process, the entire nation. Children must be in schools and not at work for a more just society with equity and fairness leading to deepening democracy in our country.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child provides an example of the evolution of a UN Convention. In 1959, a working group drafted the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, which consisted of ten principles that set forth basic rights to which all children should be entitled.
However, a declaration is not legally binding law; these principles needed to be codified in a legally-binding convention. The drafting process lasted nine years, during which representatives of governments, intergovernmental, and specialized agencies like UNICEF, UNESCO, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and nongovernmental organizations, such as Save the Children, worked together to create consensus on the language of the convention. The Children’s Convention was adopted by the General Assembly in 1989 and was immediately signed by more nations in a shorter period of time than any other UN convention. It was ratified by 61 states and as a result entered into force in 1990. Furthermore, the total number of member states that have ratified the CRC has surpassed that of all other conventions. As of Fall 2000, only two member states had not ratified it: Somalia and the United States.