Both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have promised to introduce children’s rights if they are voted into power in today’s general election.
The two parties have pledged to base their new domestic laws on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. While the Lib Dems first made this commitment at the 2010 general election, and again in 2015, this year marks the first time another major party has done the same. Meanwhile the Conservatives have declared they will keep an open mind about the idea.
If the terms of the UN Convention are turned incorporated into English law, the move would create a comprehensive set of economic, social, cultural and civil and political rights for every child in the UK. Supporters of the idea have claimed that although the Human Rights Act has done a lot of good for young people, it is based on the European Convention on Human Rights. This treaty was not written with children specifically in mind.
Research from Brighton University has reportedly shown that children are more willing to come forward about troubling matters such as abuse if they have had their rights explained to them. One school worker told the academics that staff will “always get some disclosures when we talk about rights at the beginning of the school year”. Knowing their rights makes children “feel empowered to tell someone and that is something that probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for this”.
Carolyne Willow is the director of children’s charity Article 39, which takes its name from the UN Convention: specifically, the part of the document which states that any child who has been the victim of abuse has the right to special help in order to recover. Writing for Open Democracy, Willow asked “what greater message could we give to children about their integrity and worth than by consulting them and then passing an Act of Parliament devoted to protecting their rights?”
A summary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is available to read here.
Photo by John D. via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.