Human Rights& the Girl-Child
What are the Human Rights of the Girl-Child?
Human Rights are universal, and civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights belong to all human beings, including children and young people. Children and youth also enjoy certain human rights specifically linked to their status as minors and to their need for special care and protection. Girl-children are particularly vulnerable to certain human rights violations, and therefore require additional protections.
The human rights of children and the girl-child are explicitly set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. They are also contained in other human rights documents including the Universal Declaration, the Covenants, CEDAW, and other widely adhered to international human rights treaties and Declarations.
The Human Rights at Issue
The human rights of children and the girl-child include the following indivisible, interdependent and interrelated human rights:
- The human right to freedom from discrimination based on gender, age, race, colour, language, religion, ethnicity, or any other status, or on the status of the child's parents.
- The human right to a standard of living adequate for a child's intellectual, physical, moral, and spiritual development.
- The human right to a healthy and safe environment.
- The human right to the highest possible standard of health and to equal access to health care.
- The human right to equal access to food and nutrition.
- The human right to life and to freedom from prenatal sex selection.
- The human right to freedom from cultural practices, customs and traditions harmful to the child, including female genital mutilation.
- The human right to education -- to free and compulsory elementary education, to equal access to readily available forms of secondary and higher education, and to freedom from all types of discrimination at all levels of education.
- The human right to information about health, sexuality and reproduction.
- The human right to protection from all physical or mental abuse.
- The human right to protection from economic and sexual exploitation, prostitution, and trafficking.
- The human right to freedom from forced or early marriage.
- The human right to equal rights to inheritance.
- The human right to express an opinion about plans or decisions affecting the child's life.
Governments' Obligations to Ensuring the Human Rights of the Girl-Child:
What provisions of human right law guarantee the Human Rights of the Girl-Child?
Includes excerpts from the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention Against Discrimination in Education, and the ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 38).
- "States Parties shall respect and ensure ... rights ... to each child ... without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.... States Parties shall ensure ... the survival and development of the child.... States Parties recognize the right of the child to the ... highest attainable standard of health....; shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to ... health care services.... States Parties shall ... diminish infant and child mortality; ... ensure the provision of ... health care to all children.... States Parties shall take all effective ... measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.... States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.... States Parties ... shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in case of need provide material assistance and support..., particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.... States Parties recognize the right of the child to education.... States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.... States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.... "
- -- Convention on the Rights of the Child, Articles 2, 6, 24, 27, 28, 32, and 34
- "States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree ... to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, ... customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.... States Parties shall take all appropriate measures ... to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.... States Parties shall ... eliminate discrimination against women ... in the field of education...;... health care...."
- -- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Articles 2, 5, 10 and 12
- "Everyone has the right a standard of living adequate for ... health and well-being.... Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children ... shall enjoy the same social protection.... Everyone has the right to education...."
- -- Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 25 and 26
- "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.... Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth, the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and the State. Every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have a name. Every child has the right to acquire a nationality."
- -- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 10, 23, and 24
- "The States Parties ... recognize that ... special measures of protection and assistance should be taken on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions. Children and young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation. Their employment in work harmful to their morals or health or dangerous to life or likely to hamper their normal development should be punishable by law.... States Parties ... recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living....; to the ... highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.... The steps to be taken ... to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for ... the reduction of the stillbirth-rate and of infant mortality, and for the healthy development of the child.... States Parties ... recognize the right of everyone to education...."
- -- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Articles 10, 11, 12, and 13
- "The States Parties ... undertake ... to ... discontinue any ... practices which involve discrimination in education....; to formulate, develop and apply a national policy which ... will ...... promote equality of opportunity and of treatment in ... education and in particular:...To make primary education free and compulsory; make secondary education in its different forms available and accessible to all; make higher education equally accessible to all on the basis of individual capacity; assure compliance by all with the obligation to attend school prescribed by law...; To encourage and intensify ... the education of persons who have not received any primary education or who have not completed the entire primary education...."
- -- Convention Against Discrimination in Education, Articles 3 and 4
- "Each Member... undertakes to pursue a national policy ... to ensure the effective abolition of child labour and to raise progressively the minimum age for admission to employment or work to a level consistent with the fullest physical and mental development of young persons.... The minimum age ... shall not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling and, in any case, shall not be less than 15 years.... The minimum age for admission to any type of employment or work which by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of young persons shall not be less than 18 years...."
- -- ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 38), Articles 1, 2, and 3
Governments' Commitments to Ensuring the Human Rights of the Girl-Child:
What commitments have governments made to ensuring the realization of the Human Rights of the Girl-Child?
Includes commitments made at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, the Earth Summit in Rio, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, and excerpts from the Amman Affirmation.
- "We are determined to ... ensure the human rights of ... the girl child as an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms....; ... ensure the full enjoyment by ... the girl child of all human rights ... and take effective action against violations of these rights...."
- -- Beijing Declaration, paras. 9 and 23
- "Actions to be taken: ... Advance the goal of equal access to education by taking measures to eliminate discrimination in education at all levels on the basis of gender, race, language, national origin, age or disability, or any other form of discrimination.... By the year 2000, provide universal access to basic education and ensure completion of primary education by at least 80 per cent of primary school-age children; close the gender gap in primary and secondary school education by the year 2005; provide universal primary education in all countries before the year 2015.... Reduce the female illiteracy rate to at least half its 1990 level.... Set specific target dates for eliminating all forms of child labour that are contrary to accepted international standards and ensure the full enforcement of relevant existing laws and ... implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and International Labour Organization standards, ensuring the protection of working children, ... street children, through the provision of appropriate health, education and other social services.... Address the acute problems of children ... by supporting efforts ... aimed at ... the prevention and eradication of female infanticide, harmful child labour, the sale of children and their organs, child prostitution, child pornography and other forms of sexual abuse...."
- -- Beijing Platform for Action, paras. 80, 81, 175, and 230
- "... Each country should combat human rights abuses against young people, particularly young women and girls, and should consider providing all youth with legal protection, skills, opportunities and the support necessary for them to fulfil their personal, economic and social aspirations and potentials.... Children ... are highly vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation. .... The specific interests of children need to be taken fully into account ... in order to safeguard the future sustainability of any actions taken to improve the environment...."
- -- Agenda 21, Chapter 25, paras. 8 and 12
- "National and international mechanisms and programmes should be strengthened for the defence and protection of children, in particular, the girl-child, abandoned children, street children, economically and sexually exploited children, ... refugee and displaced children.... The World Conference on Human Rights ... stresses that the child for the full ... development of his or her personality should grow up in a family environment which accordingly merits broader protection.... The World Conference ... calls on States to integrate the Convention [on the Rights of the Child] ... into their national action plans.... Particular priority should be placed on reducing infant and maternal mortality rates, reducing malnutrition and illiteracy rates and providing access to safe drinking-water and to basic education.... Exploitation and abuse of children should be actively combated, including by addressing their root causes. Effective measures are required against female infanticide, harmful child labour, sale of children and organs, child prostitution, child pornography, as well as other forms of sexual abuse.... The World Conference ... supports all measures ... to ensure the effective protection and promotion of human rights of the girl child...; urges States to repeal existing laws and regulations and remove customs and practices which discriminate against and cause harm to the girl child."
- -- Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, Part I, para. 21, and Part II, paras. 47, 48, and 49
- "Education is empowerment.... The priority of priorities must continue to be the education of women and girls.... There can be no enduring success in basic education until the gender gap is closed."
- -- The Amman Affirmation