According to international law, a ‘child’ means every human being below the age of 18 years. This is a universally accepted definition of a child and comes from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), an international legal instrument accepted and ratified by most countries.
India has always recognised the category of persons below the age of 18 years as distinct legal entity. That is precisely why people can vote or get a driving license or enter into legal contracts only when they attain the age of 18 years. Marriage of a girl below the age of 18 years and a boy below 21 years is restrained under the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929. Moreover, after ratifying the UNCRC in 1992, India changed its law on juvenile justice to ensure that every person below the age of 18 years, who is in need of care and protection, is entitled to receive it from the State.
There are, however, other laws that define a child differently and are yet to be brought in conformity with the UNCRC. But, as stated earlier, the legal understanding of the age of maturity is 18 for girls and 21 for boys.
This means all persons in your village/town/city below the age of 18 years have to be treated as children and need your assistance and support.
What makes a person a ‘child’ is the person’s ‘age.’ Even if a person under the age of 18 years is married and has children of her/his own, she/he is recognised as a child according to international standards.
Besides these they also have rights as equal citizens of India, just as any other adult male or female:
The State must:
The most significant of all international laws for children is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, popularly referred to as the CRC. This, together with our Indian Constitution and Laws, determine what rights all children must have.
What is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Human rights belong to all people, regardless of their age, including children. However, because of their special status - whereby children need extra protection and guidance from adults - children also have some special rights of their own. These are called children’s rights and they are laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Significant features of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
It draws attention to four sets of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights:
Right to Survival includes
Right to Development includes
Right to Protection includes freedom from all forms of
Right to Participation includes
All rights are dependent on each other and are indivisible. However, because of their nature all rights are divided into:
Immediate Rights (Civil and Political Rights) which include such things as discrimination, punishment, right to a fair hearing in criminal cases and a separate system of juvenile justice, right to life, right to nationality, right to re-unification with the family.
Most protection rights fall within the category of immediate rights and therefore demand immediate attention and intervention.
Progressive Rights (Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), which include health and education and the rights that are not covered by the first category.
They are recognised in the CRC under Article 4, which states: “With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, State Parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international co-operation.”
Note: Children acquire different capacities and degrees of maturity as they grow older. This does not mean they require no protection if they are 15 or 16 years old. For instance, children in our country are made to marry and work under the age of 18. But they should not receive less protection because the community feels they have matured. They must receive the very best protection, opportunities and help in order to ensure them the best start in life on their journey to adulthood.
Source: Portal Content Team
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