I don’t know much about children’s rights. Honestly, I am not even sure what my human rights are, and I am sure that there are many people who are in the same boat. However, being a part of the Right Year for Children debate on whether the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child should be brought into UK law really opened my eyes. We take for granted how important these rights are – so we should know about them.
The overwhelming theme that I took from the whole debate was that it was a communication problem. When we see that someone has ‘rights’ we are automatically skeptical; that they may be used as an excuse for those who don’t deserve those rights at all. But the fact of the matter is that all, and I mean all, deserve these rights because we are all human. And children most of all deserve the utmost protection as they hold the keys to what will happen next. Unless we change our attitude towards children, towards our fellow human beings, we will fail to appreciate how important these rights are. We take for granted the fact that we have such free access to them, and forget those that do not.
One of the most important articles is Article 16. It talks of no ‘unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation’ which tells us that we cannot continue to speak derogatively about our children and young people. A poll by Children and Young People Now in 2009 revealed that over 76% of press coverage about young people is negative. This is the highest percentage in the world and it clearly has to reduce or we could have a serious problem.
A case study taken by the Youth Media Agency in their submission to the Leveson Inquiry investigated the way that children and young people were represented in the media following the London Riots in 2010 which can be seen here (http://bit.ly/ZblKeP). It shows a tirade of abuse towards children as young as 5 who were caught up in a hate campaign towards a younger generation that was more involved in the cleanup of the devastation, rather than the riots itself. Yet this did not get the justice that it deserved. This needs to change.
So it was fantastic to be a part of this Right Year for Children event, to speak and listen to those that have been in involved in children’s policy for years. But policy and legislation are only the first step, they provide the platform upon which awareness and understanding can be raised. Our children have rights, and we must learn to respect them – the UNCRC recognises this important fact and shows us that it is within our reach. But the next steps must be taken by us, to use this law to show this country that our children are important enough to invest in because what is the motto for 2012? Inspire a Generation (and this is our chance!)