The Rights of the Child

Rights of the Child

The meaning of the child and the rights of children

Humanity has to do its best for the child.” Declaration of Geneva.

Definition of the child

Etymologically, the term “child” comes from the Latin infans which means ” the one who does not speak “. For the Roman, this term designates the child from its birth, up to the age of 7 years.

This notion evolved a lot through centuries and cultures to finally designate human being from birth until adulthood. But this conception of the child was wide and the age of the majority varied from a culture to another.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 defines more precisely the term “child”:

“[…] a child is any human being below the age of eighteen years, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”

The idea, through this definition and all the texts concerning child welfare, is that the child is a human being with rights and dignity.

What characterizes the child, is their youth and vulnerability. Indeed, the child is growing, a future adult, who has no means to protect themself.

So, the child has to be the object of a particular interest and a specific protection. In this perspective, texts proclaiming the protection of the child and their rights were adopted.


Definition of the rights of the child

The recognition of the rights of the children

Children’s rights were recognised after the 1st World war, with the adoption of the Declaration of Geneva, in 1924. The process of recognition of children’s rights continued thanks to the UN, with the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959.

The recognition of the child’s interest and their rights became a reality on 20 November 1989 with the adoption of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child which is the first international legally binding text recognizing all the fundamental rights of the child.



Children’s rights: human rights

Children’s rights are human rights. They protect the child as a human being. As human rights, children’s rights are constituted by fundamental guarantees and essential human rights:

  • Children’s rights recognize fundamental guarantees to all human beings: the right to life, the non-discrimination principle, the right to dignity through the protection of physical and mental integrity (protection against slavery, torture and bad treatments, etc.)
  • Children’s rights are civil and political rights, such as the right to identity, the right to a nationality, etc.
  • Children’s rights are economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to education, the right to a decent standard of living, the right to health, etc.
  • Children’s rights include individual rights: the right to live with his or her parents, the right to education, the right to benefit from protection, etc.
  • Children’s rights include collective rights: rights of refugee and disabled children, of minority children or from autochthonous groups.


Children’s rights: rights adapted to children

Children’s rights are human rights specifically adapted to the child because they take into account their fragility, specificities and age-appropriate needs.

Children’s rights take into account the necessity of development of the child. The children thus have the right to live and to develop suitably physically and intellectually.

Children’s rights plan to satisfy the essential needs for good development of the child, such as the access to an appropriate alimentation, to necessary care, to education, etc.

Children’s rights consider the vulnerable character of the child. They imply the necessity to protect them. It means to grant particular assistance to them and to provide protection adapted to their age and to their degree of maturity.

So, the children have to be helped and supported and must be protected against labour exploitation, kidnapping, and ill-treatment, etc.
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