Convention on the Rights of Child

Convention on the Rights of Child (hereinafter referred to as the Convention) came into force on September 2, 1990 whereby the purpose was to provide for all-encompassing framework not only to protect children from exploitation but to ensure that standards of health, education, values and sanitation, inter alia, are maintained which would be helpful in grooming successful and healthy children. Pakistan ratified the Convention on December 12, 1990. It is pertinent to note that, presently, no reservations stands attached to the Convention. Though, Pakistan made a general reservation at the time of ratification but it was withdrawn on July 23, 1997.

Basic Structure of the Convention:

According to the convention, every human being who is below the age of eighteen years is to be considered a child for the purposes of the Convention and that it does not come into conflict with the law of the state which provides for the attainment of majority at an earlier age. It is pertinent to note here that, both, reservations and flexible provisions are allowed and kept in the international conventions seeking universal application so that a particular provision does not become a hurdle in its ratification and application of the part which a particular state sees as enforceable in its jurisdiction. Convention strictly prohibits discrimination and requires states to ensure that laws, policies and executive orders made, at any level, shall protect the interest of the child by putting the available resources to best use and encourages international cooperation to achieve the same. It is the responsibility of the state to protect child’s right to life and ensure his right to acquire the nationality.

One of the important features of the Convention is that it not only protects the rights of child as an individual but also compliments and preserves the necessity and role that a family plays in child’s growth. Convention requires states to ensure that the child is not separated from his parents against their will unless the state considers that such separation is in the best interest of the child. Along with these rights, the Convention stresses on a child’s right to cultural and recreational activities. To prevent child-trafficking, the Convention promotes the idea of international cooperation through conclusion of bilateral and multi-lateral treaties.

It also reiterates certain fundamental rights which have been made available under different treaties to all mankind. Foremost being the freedom of; speech, assembly, association, thought, conscience, religion, privacy, education and protection from torture and inhuman treatment. A state is responsible to provide for a safe and healthy environment to the child being brought up and to protect him from negative influences. Convention also contains guidance for states involved in internal and external armed conflicts. A child who is not fifteen years old cannot take part in direct hostilities.

The aforementioned is merely a summary of the comprehensive Convention which also provides for a ‘Committee on the Rights of Child’. Its work is to monitor the implementation of the Convention by the state parties.

Convention on the Rights of Child and Pakistan

The Convention, due to lack of enabling legislation remains unenforceable in the courts of Pakistan. It should, nonetheless, be noted that there are provision in laws which more or less cover the entire subject matter of the Convention. The provisions are, however, contained in different laws ranging from the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 to Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act, 2004.

Bilal Ramzan

Author: Bilal Ramzan

The writer is a lawyer, has an LLM in International Law from the University of Cambridge and is a member of the Editorial Team of Courting The Law.