International law is the foundation of Equality Now’s work to ensure all women and girls are able to live safe, fearless, and free.
November 20th 2019 is the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which solidified protections for children, including protections from discrimination on the basis of sex, across the world in international law.
We know not everyone loves reading the law as much as we do, so here’s a cheat sheet on the promises made in 1989 when the CRC was adopted by the UN, and where States STILL need to step up to fulfill their international obligations to protect children from inequality, violence, and discrimination:
States committed to protecting children from discrimination
All States committed to respect and protect the rights of children without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.”
Despite making this commitment, too many States around the world still have laws that treat girls differently to boys. In Tanzania, the minimum age of marriage for girls is 14, but for boys, it is 18. Recently the Court of Appeal upheld a 2016 ruling that this was unconstitutional, but the government is yet to amend the law.
States committed to guaranteeing children’s right to a nationality
All States committed to ensuring children have “the right to acquire a nationality”, meaning that they have a country to call home, and that a State is responsible for their welfare.
Despite this, there are 25 countries worldwide that prevent women from passing their nationality to their children on an equal basis with men. This leaves children at risk of wide-ranging human rights violations and inhibits sustainable development.
States committed to protecting children from all forms of violence, abuse, and exploitation
All States committed to protecting children from all forms of violence, including sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.
In Zambia, many girls are raped, sexually abused, and harassed by their male teachers and male classmates whenever they go to school. These incidents are largely unreported due to the fear of retaliatory attacks, victim shaming as well as an unresponsive legal and education system.
States committed to giving victims access to justice
States committed to establishing systems to identify, report, and investigate violence, abuse, and exploitation, and to involve the judiciary where appropriate.
In Bolivia, sexual violence survivors who choose to report their case face many obstacles to obtain justice in Bolivia, including having to prove “intimidation, physical violence, or psychological violence,” a burden that discourages many survivors from seeking justice.
States committed to abolishing traditional practices that cause harm to children’s health
States committed to taking “effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.”
Despite this child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) is happening across every continent except Antarctica, causing long term health implications throughout a girl’s life. States, including the US*, are failing to protect girls from these harmful practices. The US is the only country in the world that hasn’t actually ratified the CRC, all the more reason to call on them directly to protect girls.
>>> ACT NOW: Call on the United States to protect girls from FGM.
States committed to working together to protect children from sexual exploitation and trafficking
States committed to protecting children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. They also committed to working together to prevent children being induced or coerced into unlawful sexual activity, exploited in prostitution or pornographic materials, or trafficked in any form.
Technology, in particular the internet, has enabled sex trafficking and sexual exploitation to become the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. The increasing misuse of technology is changing the nature of trafficking and exploitation, and we must work together to develop new ways to address it.
States committed to providing support to victims of exploitation or abuse
States committed to promoting the physical and psychological recovery of children who are victims of abuse and exploitation centered on fostering the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.
Tens of thousands of girls in Latin America become pregnant after being raped every year, according to research conducted by our partner CLADEM. Earlier this year an 11-year old girl who became pregnant after being raped was forced to give birth by Cesarean section after Argentine authorities refused to allow her the abortion to which she was legally entitled, and which she requested.
Every girl should be able to live safe, fearless, and free. Until then, we will continue to remind States of the commitments they made, call them out on their failings, and work with them to promote and protect girls’ rights.