Human rights are afforded to every individual regardless of their age. However the term ‘children’s rights’ is used to describe the human rights of children, in order to highlight their right to special protection and care due to their age and vulnerability.
There is no single definition of children’s rights, and views on children’s rights differ across countries and cultures. Children have traditionally been viewed as property of their parents rather than as individuals with the same human rights as adults, and therefore discussions of human rights have not always acknowledged children’s rights.
One of the earliest English language documents regarding children’s rights was Thomas Spence’s The Rights of Infants (1796). However it was not until 1923 that the issue of children’s rights began to be widely promoted, when Eglantyne Jebb, a pioneer of children’s rights and the founder of Save the Children, drafted a document entitled the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. This Declaration was adopted a year later by the League of Nations, which would later become the United Nations. The Declaration influenced the formation on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC), which is the leading international treaty on children’s rights today.
The UN views children’s rights as including all the human rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with additional rights that are particular to the situation of children. These include, for example, the right to association with both biological parents, the right to universal education, the right to criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child, and the right to care and nurturing.