Human Rights Instruments for Children with Disabilities

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Children with disabilities face discrimination and accessibility barriers both related to their disability and also related to their age. Many programs meant to benefit children are inaccessible for children with disabilities. Meanwhile, programs meant to benefit people with disabilities may not meet the needs of children with disabilities.

Protecting the human rights of children with disabilities may require using human rights instruments for people with disabilities in conjunction with human rights instruments for children.

Using the CRPD for Children with Disabilities

  • Paragraph r in the Preamble of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes that children with disabilities should have full enjoyment of all human rights on an equal basis with other children.
  • Paragraph h in Article 3 of the CRPD calls for “respect for the evolving capacity of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.”
  • Section 3 of Article 4 of the CRPD requires countries ratifying the CRPD to consult with people with disabilities, including children with disabilities, in their decision-making processes.
  • Article 7 of the CRPD focuses on the right of children with disabilities to fully enjoy all human rights on an equal basis with other children; the right of children with disabilities to express their views freely; and “to be provided with disability and age-appropriate assistance to realize that right.”
  • Article 8, section 2, paragraph b, requires that all levels of the education system, including those for children from an early age, should teach respect for the rights of people with disabilities.
  • Article 16, section 5, calls upon CRPD-ratifying countries to have policies, including child-focused policies, ensuring that violence and abuse against people with disabilities is identified, investigated, and prosecuted.
  • Article 18, section 2, indicates that children with disabilities should be registered after birth and have the right to a name and a nationality, and to be cared for by their parents.
  • Article 23, section 1, paragraph c, says that people with disabilities, including children, have the right to retain their fertility.
    • Article 23, section 2, says that the interest of the child should be paramount in decision making.
    • Article 23, section 3, requires CRPD-ratifying countries to ensure that children with disabilities have equal rights to family life, and the prevention of their concealment, abandonment, neglect, and segregation.
    • Article 23, section 4, says that a child should not be separated from his or her parents against their will on the basis of their disability.
    • Article 23, section 5, says that if the immediate family cannot care for a child with disabilities, the state should take “every effort to provide alternative care within the wider family, and failing that, within the community in a family setting.”
  • Article 24, section 2, paragraph a, indicates that children with disabilities should not be excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability.
    • Article 24, section 3, paragraph c, requires that the education of people with disabilities, particularly children and particularly those who are blind, deaf, or deafblind, should be delivered in the most appropriate mode of communication for the individual.
  • Article 25, paragraph b calls upon governments to ensure that people with disabilities, including children, have access to health services that include early identification and intervention and services designed to minimize or prevent further disabilities.

Using the CRC for Children with Disabilities

  • All countries, except the United States and South Sudan, have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
  • Article 2, section 1 of the CRC calls upon countries ratifying the CRC to respect the rights of each child, regardless of their disability or other status.

Article 23, section 1 requires ratifying countries to recognize that “a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life.”

  • Article 23, section 2 requires that ratifying countries recognize the right of the disabled child to “special care” and to ensure that resources be available to assist with care “appropriate to the child’s condition and to the circumstances of the parents or others caring for the child.”
  • Article 23, section 3 calls upon the government to provide assistance for the special needs of a disabled child free of charge, whenever possible, accounting for the financial resources of the parents. This includes ensuring the child has access to education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment, and recreation opportunities.
  • Article 23, section 4 calls upon ratifying countries to promote the exchange of information on the health care, medical, psychological, and other treatment of disabled children, with particular attention to the needs of developing countries.

Other Human Rights Instruments for Children with Disabilities

  • The Minimum Age Convention, adopted by the International Labour Organization in 1973, establishes the minimum age of employment with the aim of abolishing child labor.
  • The Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography (Sex Trafficking Protocol), addresses the problem of children being sold for sex trafficking, forced labor, adoption, participation in armed conflicts, child marriage, and organ trade.
  • The Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (Child Soldiers Protocol) extends the minimum age requirement for direct participation in armed conflict and conscription to 18.
  • The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) is modeled after the CRC and mainly differs in being written to align with the African Human Rights Charter.
  • The European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights promotes the rights and “best interests” of children.