The Rights of a Child

Welcome back, dear readers! It’s been alittle while but, something has been on my mind and I’ve been gathering information and reading about this topic. In an older post of mine Childhood Trauma Shapes Adult Views, I talked about human rights and how every human being is entitled to those rights. I also mentioned that the United States is the only industrialized nation that has not ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights treaty. There’s another treaty that I think needs to come to light: The Convention on the Rights of the Child. This convention was formed in September of 1990 and has been ratified by most participating countries. The United States is the only country that has not ratified this treaty. A movement has been circulating the internet a #saveourchildren. This treaty acknowledges that the child has his/her rights from the moment they are born. In this treaty, a child is defined as a human being under the age of majority.

It adds protection in the Juvenile justice system and would end sending children to prison for life without the possibility of parole. Too many children are introduced to the United States’ “Justice” system at too young of an age. A large number are simply for childish acts and behaviors like tantrums or arguing with their teacher. Instead of working through the child’s behavior, they’re accused of crimes and then pushed through the court system and end up traumatized by our prison system. According to the International Justice Resource Center, roughly 200,000 American children were tried as adults and placed in adult detention centers. Many adolescents are shuffled through the adult justice system as early as 16 and 17. Also, many have had their due process denied with long waits and their ability to waive legal representation. Without an adult or representative present, while being questioned by authorities, they are in a fragile and suggestive state. How is this okay?! We treat children as small adults in times where it is inappropriate to do so. Their development is not complete; they cannot comprehend everything that is happening. Exposure to trauma can even delay brain development. Even the smartest child should not be expected to behave or think as an adult. The United States is 75 years behind in human rights, but our greatest failure has been the juvenile justice system. We have failed our young and have violated numerous human rights along the way. It is not okay! Children deserve to be happy, healthy, expressive, and innocent. Our Judicial and punitive systems need reformation. 

While there has been some growing support for ending life without parole in the juvenile system, there has not been any support to ratify this treaty. There hasn’t even been a vote! The opposition has been that it would cause government overreach into family life or would limit the sovereignty of the United States. The United States has lost its ability to speak in terms of human rights. Our underage citizens need protection from the government, just as adult citizens need theirs.

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