What are the rights of children?

South Africa has agreed to put children first in both it’s constitution and in the signing of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. Child rights should play a very important role in planning and delivering social services to children. Effective interventions for improving child survival and wellbeing are known and yet the gap between what can be done and what is actually being done widens each year in many low income countries.

Under the South African constitution children have certain rights:

  • A name and nationality
  • Family or parental care (or appropriate care if removed from the family)
  • Basic nutrition
  • Shelter
  • Basic health and social services
  • Protection from maltreatment, abuse, neglect and exploitation
  • Legal representation and certain protection from detention
  • Protection and exclusion from armed conflict
  • Not to be required or allowed to work or provide services not appropriate for their age
  • To have access to legal representation

Children’s rights to survival and healthy development must be respected, promoted and protected.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 defines four principles (non-discrimination, best interests of the child, right to survival and development, and respect for the views of the child); the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child of 1990 addresses the unique problems of the African child (socio-economic inequality, cultural and traditional barriers to progress, natural disasters, armed conflict, exploitation and hunger, female circumcision, child soldiers, literacy and children of imprisoned mothers) while the South African Constitution and Bill of Rights focus on the rights of children.

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