2018: Children’s Rights Show Signs Of Improvement – But Still Far From Being Universal!

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A recent publication by the Advocacy Director of the children’s rights division at Human Rights Watch shows signs of progress for children during the last years (Human Rights Watch, 2018).


Child Soldiers

At the beginning of August 2018, more than 100 children were released by two armed groups in South Sudan, resulting in a total of 900 children released out of the 19,000 children still serving in the ranks of armed groups and armed forces (UNICEF, 2018).  During the same month, Myanmar’s armed forces released 75 children and young people from military service, amid international outrage over alleged abuses committed by troops in the country’s numerous ongoing conflicts (Reuters, 2018). Meanwhile in Nigeria, 833 children were released by the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in North East Nigeria giving rise an opportunity to help these children heal and rebuild their lives (Office Of The Special Representative Of The Secretary-General For Children And Armed Conflict, 2018).  


Life Sentences Ban

Twenty-one US states now ban life without parole for children or have no children serving this type of sentence. A combination of judicial decisions and state legislative reforms have reduced the number of individuals serving by 60 per cent in just three years, and that number continues to decline. Today, approximately 1,100 people are serving life without parole for crimes committed as children (Fair Sentencing of Youth, 2018).


School Drop-Out

The number of children and adolescents who are out of school has dropped by 110 million since 2000 (UNESCO, 2018). But still more than 100 million children remain out of school worldwide.


Corporal Punishment

In 1979, Sweden was the only country that prohibited all corporal punishment of children. To date 54 states, with Nepal being the latest and first in South Asia, have achieved the same prohibition in all settings, including the home, and 56 more states have committed to reforming their laws to achieve a complete legal ban (End Corporal Punishment, 2018).



By 2030, AIDS-related deaths are projected to decrease by 57 percent among children below the age of 14, compared with a 35 percent decrease among those aged 15 to 19 years (UNICEF, 2018).


Child Marriage

The proportion of women who were married as children decreased by 15 percent in the last decade, from 1 in 4 to approximately 1 in 5. South Asia has witnessed the largest decline in child marriage worldwide in the last 10 years, as a girl’s risk of marrying before her 18th birthday has dropped by more than a third, from nearly 50 percent to 30 percent, in large part due to progress being made in India. Increasing rates of girls’ education, proactive government investments in adolescent girls, and strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes are among the reasons for the shift (UNICEF, 2018).


Female Genital Mutilation

Since 1990, rates of female genital mutilation (FGM) have fallen dramatically among girls under 14 in Africa in the last two decades (BBC News, 2018). The biggest decline is reported in East Africa, where the rate dropped from 71% of girls under 14 in 1995, to 8% in 2016. West Africa also saw a similar drop, from 74% of girls to 25% the last 20 years.

However, female genital mutilation still remain widely practised: UNICEF estimates that 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM worldwide – mostly in parts of Africa and the Middle East.


Safe Schools

Since its launch for endorsement at the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools in May 2015, 82 countries around the world have signed the Safe Schools Declaration, signaling their commitment to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities from the worst effects of war (The Global Coalition To Protect Education From Attack, 2018). Incidents of armed groups – be they government forces or rebel groups – using schools for military purposes are down 14 per cent from the previous year, with 188 schools affected (Human Rights Watch, 2018).


Child Labour

Since 2000 there has been a net reduction of 94 million children working as child labourers. The number of children in hazardous work fell by more than half. There were almost 134 million fewer child laborers in 2016 than in 2000. Real advances have been made in the fight against child labour, providing an important foundation for efforts moving forward (International Labour Organization, 2017).


At Humanium, we strive to defend the rights of all children all over the world by raising awareness of our common cause, by changing mindsets and by working directly in the field.

Visit our website, https://www.humanium.org/en, to find out more about our work, to contact the Humanium team, and to stand with us as we help to improve the lives of thousands of children all over the world!


Written by Jenny García

Reviewed by Elizabeth Wee




BBC News. (2018). Study finds ‘huge’ fall in FGM rates among African girls. Retrieved 8 January, 2019, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-46128938

End Corporal Punishment. (2018). Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment Of Children. Retrieved 8 January, 2019, from https://endcorporalpunishment.org/

Fair Sentencing of Youth. (2018). Tipping Point: A Majority Of States Abandon Life- Without- Parole Sentences For Children. Retrieved 7 January, 2019, from https://www.fairsentencingofyouth.org/wp-content/uploads/Tipping-Point.pdf

Human Rights Watch. (2018). Ten Good News Stories for Kids in 2018. Retrieved 7 January, 2019, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/12/20/ten-good-news-stories-kids-2018

Human Rights Watch. (2018). Yes, We Can End the Military Use of Schools. Retrieved 8 January, 2019, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/07/02/yes-we-can-end-military-use-schools

International Labour Organization. (2017). Global Estimates of Child Labour. Retrieved 8 January, 2019, from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575541.pdf

Office Of The Special Representative Of The Secretary-General For Children And Armed Conflict. (2018). United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict | To promote and protect the rights of all children affected by armed conflict. Retrieved 7 January, 2019, from https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/nigeria-release-833-children-civilian-joint-task-force/

Reuters. (2018). Myanmar military releases 75 child soldiers from service. Retrieved 7 January, 2019, from https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-myanmar-military-idUKKCN1LG163

The Global Coalition To Protect Education From Attack (GCPEA). (2018). Safe Schools Declaration and Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. Retrieved 8 January, 2019, from http://www.protectingeducation.org/safeschoolsdeclaration

UNESCO. (2018, 27th September). No Time to Lose on the Road to Universal Primary and Secondary Education. [Weblog]. Retrieved 8 January 2019, fromhttp://uis.unesco.org/en/blog/no-time-lose-road-universal-primary-and-secondary-education

UNICEF. (2018). 25 million child marriages prevented in last decade due to accelerated progress, according to new UNICEF estimates. Retrieved 8 January, 2019, from /press-releases/25-million-child-marriages-prevented-last-decade-due-accelerated-progress-according

UNICEF. (2018). Around 80 adolescents will die of AIDS every day by 2030, at current trends. Retrieved 8 January, 2019, from /press-releases/around-80-adolescents-will-die-aids-every-day-2030-current-trends-unicef

UNICEF. (2018). Eastern and Southern Africa Media Centre . Retrieved 7 January, 2019, from https://www.unicef.org/esaro/media-centre_south-sudan-2018-more-children-released-from-armed-groups.html