On November 20th, 193 countries will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the most rapidly and comprehensively ratified treaty in history of the world – The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Two countries, however, will sadly miss out – Somalia and The United States of America. Embarrassingly, the US stands with Somalia as the only two countries on the planet that have not ratified the CRC. What’s even more embarrassing is that Somalia has an excuse. Since a Somali government did not exist at the time of ratification, the country literally could not ratify the treaty.
Throughout history and still today, many societies believe that children are without rights, likening children to property, such as cattle or dogs. The CRC is a legally binding, international treaty that recognizes basic human rights for children, such as the right to survival and the right to be free from abuse and exploitation. Since ratification, the CRC has been integral in helping countries and international organizations shape new laws that protect children from horrors like forced conscription, child labor, disease, abuse, and more. While many of the world’s children still suffer enormously at the hands of adults, the CRC stands as a symbol of hope and a guide towards positive changes for the protection of children worldwide.
How disgraceful that for 20 years, the United States has essentially stood alone as an opponent of a treaty designed to recognize the human rights of children. How pitiable that US critics of the CRC point to the potential loss of US sovereignty as their primary reason to reject a treaty that aims to protect the lives of children. How highly misguided of others to seriously believe that the CRC is anti-American and anti-family! How can a treaty, which recognizes a child’s right to live freely, without torment or neglect, be considered anti-family? True, a parent’s right to raise their child as they see fit is protected by the Constitution. However, I have yet to see concrete evidence of how the CRC, which promotes children’s rights, would undermine parents’ rights? Do critics actually want us to believe that the two notions are mutually exclusive?
President Obama and emerging others, such as child rights champion Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), don’t seem to believe this either. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration voiced its dedication to move human rights back to the front burner of American political debate, and specifically mentioned the CRC. This year, change was promised to us all, including children. In keeping with this promise, it is high time for the US to take substantive steps towards ratification of the CRC before our nation goes down in history as the only democracy in the world that denies the concept of children’s human rights.
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