Do Children Require Special Protection Under International Human Rights Law?, Fiona Orr

Abstract (click to view)

Human rights are universal; this is the precedent upon which all human rights discourse is based. Yet over the years, as international human rights law has developed, the rights of certain groups have been awarded particular attention and protection. Children are a particularly interesting group as there is unprecedented and unmatched consensus from almost all states on their need for such special protection. Despite this, children’s rights advocates face the challenge of victimising children further by insisting that they need special protection, thereby reinventing the universal subject. A robust Children’s Rights regime, decisively marked by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the broadening scope of children’s rights, has been growing since the 1990s. On the surface the campaign to raise the standard of living for vulnerable children through children’s rights seems irrefutable. This development however must precede with caution, as it raises many issues of conflict, including appointing appropriate representatives for the child, acknowledging the fact that children’s rights was born out of a Western concept of childhood, and manipulating the image of the “vulnerable” child. It could therefore have negative effects on the development of the child. Issues such as child marriage, however, highlight that international intervention to implement universal standards of protection for the vulnerable is necessary. If such intervention is not pursued within a human rights framework which respects culture it will risk losing legitimacy.