American society respects school-age children


Until modern times, the child was seen as the property of his parents or his father. These determined his life, his education and his work force; the child owed obedience. It was only during industrialization and with the introduction of compulsory schooling that "bourgeois society" began to differentiate between the world of children and that of adults, and this changed the discussion. The increased attention that has been paid to human rights since the United States' declaration of independence (1776) and the French Revolution (1789) also led to an in-depth discussion of the situation of children. For example, in Great Britain in 1833 factory work for children under the age of 9 was banned by the English Factories Act, and in 1842 underground work was restricted by the Mines Act. In 1896, the civil law in Germany introduced penalties for parents who mistreated their children or did not take good care of them. In 1902, educator Ellen Key declared the 20th century the century of the child. Even if wars, AIDS or exploitative work continue to deprive children of their childhood, the 20th century is still the most important epoch in the history of children's rights to date.

The Geneva Declaration

The child rights movement owes a lot of pioneering work to the British Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the Save the Children Fund. Alarmed by the catastrophic situation of refugee children in the Balkan countries and in Russia shortly after the First World War, Eglantyne Jebb drafted a charter for children, the Children's Charter. She sent this to the League of Nations in Geneva with the words: "I am convinced that we should lay claim to certain rights of children and should work for the universal recognition of these rights." League of Nations and known as the Geneva Declaration. It was not legally binding. With the dissolution of the League of Nations in 1946, it lost its foundation.

The Declaration of the Rights of the Child

Immediately after the Second World War there was talk of having the Geneva Declaration of 1924 recognized by the United Nations with a few adjustments. But the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, dominated the debate. In the human rights declaration there are certain statements in favor of the children, in particular for their protection. However, the General Assembly of the United Nations only passed a new declaration of the rights of the child on November 20, 1959. Since then, November 20 has been considered the day of children's rights. The declaration contains specific rights such as the right to a name, a nationality or free tuition. However, it is hardly more binding than the Geneva Declaration of 1924.

The UN Pacts of 1966

The International Covenants on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 are the first comprehensive human rights treaties at the universal level. They specified the legally non-binding Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Occasionally, they also contain provisions that specifically concern the child: the prohibition of discrimination, the right to protection by family, society and the state, the right to name and nationality, the protection of the child upon dissolution of the parents' marriage.

The International Year of the Child 1979

The idea of ​​an International Year of the Child was born in 1972 with the intention of paying more attention to the needs of children around the world. In 1976 the project was approved by the UN General Assembly, and in 1979 the year of the child was proclaimed. In 1978 Poland submitted a draft of a children's rights convention at the conference of the UN Human Rights Commission. This was based essentially on the declaration of 1959 and was rejected as not going far enough. The second, revised draft, which Poland submitted in 1980, then formed the working basis for drawing up the final version of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child)

The Convention on the Rights of the Child should become an instrument that obliges states to work actively for the best interests of the child. In addition, the children's rights, which are found scattered in dozens of international law documents, were to be summarized and the inconsistencies between them resolved. UNICEF and non-governmental international organizations played a key role in the process of creating the convention.

On November 20, 1989, 30 years after the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and ten years after the International Year of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the "UN Convention on the Rights of the Child", was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It was opened for drawing on January 26, 1990. It was signed by 61 states on the first day, and one month after its twentieth ratification it came into force on September 2, 1990. All countries in the world have now signed the convention and all - with the exception of the USA - have ratified it.

The additional protocols to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

As a result, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was supplemented by three additional protocols. The Additional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict (Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict) stipulates that children under the age of 18 may not be forcibly conscripted into military service, thus specifying the age limit of 15 years in Article 38 of the Convention. Anyone wishing to volunteer for military service must be at least 16 years old. But even then: Nobody under the age of 18 is allowed to take part in combat operations. In February 2002 the additional protocol came into force; 168 states have ratified it today.

The second additional protocol to the child rights convention on child trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography (Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography) expressly prohibits this and calls on states to prosecute this form of exploitation as a crime and punishable by law to deliver. This additional protocol came into force in January 2002 with 32 contracting states; 176 states have already ratified it.

The third additional protocol to the individual complaint procedure (Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure) came into force in 2014; 45 states have already ratified it. It gives children the opportunity to complain to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child if their rights are violated.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by Germany in 1992. The first and second additional protocols have been in force in this country since 2002, the third additional protocol since 2012.