Children do not fare well in human society. When they are most vulnerable they depend utterly for their survival on their parents and other adults in the family. Without a family children have no protection against injury and early death.
World-wide, children suffer more than adults from malnutrition, disease, disability. In even the most 'developed' nations the rates of infant deaths from presumed child abuse, according to UNICEF, are among the highest in the world: 9.8 per 100,000 live births in the US, and 5.5 in Australia. Within Australia, indigenous babies are three times more likely to die in infancy than non-indigenous infants. In the US, one of the richest countries in the world, one in five children lives in poverty.
The effects of deprivation in childhood, including lack of education, last a lifetime.
In the poorest developed countries, many children work, long hours and under poor conditions, to help to support their families. Many children in the developing world are exploited as child labour and deprived of their childhood, often working as indentured labourers to pay off family debts. In Africa, tens of thousands of children have been forced to become child soldiers, with children as young as 9 or 10 bearing arms. Children are easily rejected as burdens, or used as pawns or prizes when adults see them as the key to status or inheritance. There are hundreds of thousands of child prostitutes in developing countries. Australia is the first, and so far, only country to pass laws to prohibit its citizens from travelling to other countries to prey on children for their own sexual gratification. Recent discoveries in Europe, Asia and the US indicate that there are thousands of adults engaged in organising the sexual exploitation of children through pornography, trafficking, prostitution and assaults.
in some of the most 'civilised' societies, children have fewer rights than adults, while their responsibility and freedoms are infinitely less. This first came to international attention in 1967, in the US, when a 15 year old boy called Gerald Gault was locked up for six years without a trial for an offence that an adult would have been given, at the most, a 2 month jail term. Nonetheless, in the name of 'juvenile justice' many children are still deprived of their liberty, taken from their families, and stigmatised.
Some of the greatest harm is done to children in the name of their 'best interests'. In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were taken from their families and homelands, and brought up without knowing their language, culture, history and communities, right up until the 1970s. Children of 'unmarried mothers' have been taken from their natural parents and brought up in institutional or foster care, in ignorance of their natural families, by officials determined to give them a 'better chance'. It is a child's human right to be brought up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of love and understanding - and thus, to enjoy all human rights.
One of the greatest obstacles to improving children's life chances is the perception that they are not really 'people' until they are adult- and in the interim, they are their parents' responsibilities.
Children and their human rights are even more important than adults and adult's rights.
Every childhood lasts a lifetime. Sometimes, it's a very a short lifetime.
Save the Children