The Convention on the Rights of the Child should be ratified in the U.S.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a United Nations resolution that was adopted by the General Assembly on November 20, 1989. The CRC is composed of 54 articles and proclaims that children, defined as people under 18, should be protected from violence and abuse, be able to obtain an education and be provided with basic human freedoms. As of December 2015, 196 countries have ratified the CRC, with the exception of the United States. The Biden administration is urged to submit the CRC to the Senate for ratification.

The CRC was originally formed out of concerns for children in the aftermath of the two World Wars. According to Paula Fass, in “A Historical Context for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,” during World War II, children perished in concentration camps, scientific “experiments,” and bombings. In 1948, the UN formed the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” which established human rights ideals. In 1959, the UN passed the “Declarations on the Rights of the Child.” The CRC was the first convention that states that children are entitled to human rights.

The U.S. government should ratify the CRC to establish itself as an international player in the human rights field.

While President Clinton did sign the treaty, in order for the Convention to come into force in the U.S., two thirds of the Senate must ratify it. The CRC has been unable to pass the ratification process. Susan Kilbourne, in “Placing the Convention on the Rights of the Child in an American Context,” proclaims that opponents think that if the US ratified the convention, the norms established by the convention would interfere with federalism, and more specifically, state rights.

In addition, opponents are concerned that the CRC would threaten parental control. This refers specifically to children being able to associate with whomever they choose (which raises concerns the right to be involved in gangs), the right to privacy (which raises concerns about children being able to obtain abortions without their parents’ knowledge) and religious freedom (which would allow children to join or choose not to join a religion that does not correspond with their parents’ beliefs.)

According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the U.S. still allows children under 18 to be sentenced to life in prison and children work long hours in agricultural settings. Both of these violate convention norms. Another argument raised by critics of the CRC is that since countries that don’t value human rights have signed the CRC, the CRC is ineffective. However, the CRC has influenced national laws and standards of living for children have increased. According to the HRW, as of 2014, 81% of children in developing nations are enrolled in school, compared to only 53% in 1990, and 42 countries have prohibited corporal punishment against children. Female genital mutilation is also less prominent.

In 2000, the U.S. ratified the “Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict” and the “Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography,” which are amendments to the CRC. One might think that this shows a political shift towards ratifying the CRC, however, these amendments did not create controversy about parental rights and did not resolve the issue of ratification of the convention.

Within the past month, our nation has experienced a mass shooting, as well as being involved in the humanitarian disaster of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The victims include children, who are being exposed to trauma similar to what children during WWII suffered. The U.S. government should ratify the CRC to establish itself as an international player in the human rights field. Doing so would also establish policies and enforce norms to prevent children from being injured or killed in domestic and international settings.


Featured photo courtesy of Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels