Etymologically, the term “child” comes from the Latininfans which means ” the one who does not speak “. For the Roman, this term designates the child from its birth, up to the age of 7 years.
This notion evolved a lot through centuries and cultures to finally designate human being from birth until adulthood. But this conception of the child was wide and the age of the majority varied from a culture to an another.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 defines more precisely the term “child”:
“[…] a child is any human being below the age of eighteen years, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”
The idea, through this definition and all the texts concerning child welfare, is that the child is a human being with rights and dignity.
What characterizes the child, it is his youth and vulnerability. Indeed, the child is growing, a future adult, who has no means to protect himself.
So, the child has to be the object of a particular interest and a specific protection. In this perspective, texts proclaiming the protection of the child and his rights were adopted.
Definition of the rights of the child
The recognition of the rights of the children
Children’s rights were recognized after the 1st World war, with the adoption of the Declaration of Geneva, in 1924. The process of recognition of children’s rights continued thanks to the UN, with the adoption of the Declaration of children’s rights in 1959.
The recognition of the child’s interest and his rights becomes real on 20 November 1989 with the adoption of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child which is the first international legally binding text recognizing all the fundamental rights of the child.
Children’s rights: human rights
Children’s rights are human rights. They protect the child as a human being. As human rights, children’s rights are constituted by fundamental guarantees and essential human rights:
Children’s rights recognize fundamental guarantees to all human beings : the right to life, the non-discrimination principle, the right to dignity through the protection of physical and mental integrity (protection against slavery, torture and bad treatments, etc.)
Children’s rights are civil and political rights, such as the right to identity, the right to a nationality, etc.
Children’s rights are economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to education, the right to a decent standard of living, the right to health, etc.
Children’s rights include individual rights : lthe right to live with his parents, the right to education, the right to benefit from a protection, etc.
Children’s rights include collective rights : rights of refugee and disabled childrens, of minority children or from autochtonous groups.
Children’s rights: rights adapted to children
Children’s rights are human rights specifically adapted to the child because they take into account his fragility, specificities and age-appropriate needs.
Children’s rights take into account the necessity of development of the child. The children thus have the right to live and to develop suitably physically and intellectually.
Children’s rights plan to satisfy the essential needs for a good development of the child, such as the access to an appropriate alimentation, to necessary care, to education, etc.
Children’s rights consider the vulnerable character of the child. They imply the necessity to protect them. It means to grant a particular assistance to them, and to give a protection adapted to their age and to their degree of maturity.
So, the children have to be helped and supported and must be protected against labour exploitation, kidnapping, and ill-treatment, etc.