What are the Rights of a Child?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Rob, Children's Bureau Centennial, Tan4Ikk, Karelnoppe
  • Last Modified Date: 13 December 2019
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The rights of a child refers to legal protections granted by a government to protect the safety, survival, and civil liberties of those under the age of legal adulthood. The rights of a child are often different than the rights of an adult; some grant more extensive protections while others prohibit activities deemed to be beyond the responsibility level of a child. Children's rights vary extensively worldwide; many humanitarian groups focus solely on the promotion of improving this segment of protection in regions that are seen as lacking adequate provisions.

Children are generally legally distinct from adults in two major ways: they are considered more vulnerable to harm, and are usually perceived to have a lower capacity for responsibility. This does not mean that there are not children who are tough as nails, or those who are more responsible or rational than adults; from a legal standpoint, these two general assumptions are believed by experts to create the most comprehensive package of children's rights. From these two basic principles are many of the common rights of a child drawn.


In most societies, children are not believed to be reasonably capable of providing basic necessities for themselves. Thus, some of the rights of a child pass the legal responsibility of providing food, shelter, and similar survival needs onto parents or guardians. The relative size and strength of a child is also usually perceived as rendering him or her vulnerable to harm or abuse, so the physical and psychological safety of children is likewise passed to adults. These basic rights of a child are usually the backbone of any justice system concerned with child protection, as they are the most necessary to ensuring survival.

Beyond the basics, the rights of a child typically try to prohibit child involvement in activities beyond their control or level of consent. This may include prohibitions against the use of child soldiers, capital punishment for children, or the use of child labor or child prostitution. Other prohibitions that play a part in child protection or rights issues include institution of policies such as age limits for driving, consuming alcohol or tobacco, or gambling.

Some children's rights activists point out the inconsistencies of regulating the activities of minors without permitting them to vote or have legal consent. Though most activists agree that protections necessary for the survival and physical safety of children are indisputable, some question logic that permits the regulation of activities by young adults and teenagers but does not give them a say in the lawmaking process. One common argument suggest that underage children should be able to obtain voting status prior to reaching adulthood upon passing a proficiency exam.


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