Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Children Are People

I have been thinking a lot about what I feel most passionately about. I have come to the conclusion that children are more important to me than anything. I wish above all else that all the children of this world could feel safe and happy, be healthy and loved, and get to enjoy their childhood. Not only do I feel this way because children are vulnerable and innocent, but because they hold our future- the future of humanity- in their hands. Children who are treated well usually go on to become adults who treat others well.
Many things are a mystery to me in this world. Above all other things, I will never understand how people abuse and mistreat children. And yet, it happens everywhere every day- parents who abuse their own children, abusers who are foster parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, etc. I think if we were all fully aware of the extent of abuse in our world we couldn’t stand to live in it.
To counteract the mistreatment of children all over the world, an international treaty assembled for the Convention on the Rights of the Child and passed a universal law to protect the human rights of every child. Not only did the people involved in drafting this law examine what rights children should have, regardless of where they lived, they also tried to redefine how children are seen in society:

Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and a member of a family and a community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. Recognizing children's rights in this way firmly sets a focus on the whole child. Previously seen as negotiable, the child's needs have become legally binding rights. No longer the passive recipient of benefits, the child has become the subject or holder of rights.
Excerpt taken from http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30229.html

The law covers all kinds of human rights and makes them applicable to children, such as the right to protection; the right to health care and education; the right to “happiness, love, and understanding”. Basically, it specifies that the existing human rights are not just for adult humans, but for the young ones without a voice, too. Children are humans.
I got so excited reading about this today. Then I saw how many countries have ratified this treaty- 192!!! What an amazing number! Only two countries in the whole world haven’t ratified it yet. The first is Somalia. Somalia has a few issues at the moment, as you are surely aware, and has no recognized government that could ratify the treaty. The second country is... drum roll... the USA!
I was so shocked by this and also disappointed. The US government signed the treaty, but has not yet ratified it, which means that they are not yet bound to comply with the laws it includes. The treaty has been ratified in other countries since 2005, so this isn’t a recent development. It just hasn’t taken priority here.
My hope is that people will gradually change their view of children and see that they are full human beings, even if they are weaker and smaller. They have emotions that are just as valid and strong as those of adults. They have a right to be protected and should be the most sacred part of any society.
When the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, they surely did not have children in mind. “... all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." However, they also were not thinking of women, or people of other races, or men without property, or most of the humans we have included in these rights today. It's time to change our thinking. Human rights are children's rights because children are people, just like us.

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