Somalia and US should ratify UN child rights treaty – official

Children begging on the streets of Somalia

13 October 2010 – The head of a United Nations monitoring committee today called on Somalia and the United States, the only two countries not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to do so immediately.

“With the best interests of all children at heart, I would respectfully like to reiterate our appeal that these States ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Committee on the Rights of the Child Chairperson Yanghee Lee told the General Assembly today.

That pact is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social – for youngsters under 18.

She called for universal ratification by 2012, the 10th anniversary of their entry into force, of two additional protocols to the CRC dealing with children in armed conflict, and the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography, the first ratified by 139 countries, the second by 141.

Ms. Lee noted that 30 countries still allow military recruitment of children under 18, while many states still have laws that criminalize children in prostitution rather than treating them as victims. The Committee monitors compliance with the CRC.

Asked at an earlier news conference why the United States had not ratified the treaty, she cited a raft of reasons from lack of political will to myths and misunderstandings about the convention.

“The lack of political will is the biggest reason,” she said, noting that President Barack Obama in his 2008 election campaign had said that the US would ratify the treaty, “but we have yet to see that come to fruition.”

Ms. Lee noted that “then there is the misunderstanding that once you ratify this convention parents will have to give up their parental rights, and then children would be running around with all kinds of rights, taking the rights away from parents.

“But that’s really a myth and a strong misunderstanding because the convention calls for guidance and support of parents, and families with responsibilities is one of the major provisions in the convention.”

Ms. Lee also cited a pushback from religious groups and also concerns from people who advocate home schooling and are concerned that CRC would abolish it.

“But that’s not the case,” she stressed. “We have consistently said for States parties to provide for formal and non-formal education that also includes home schooling.”

She also noted that some people have said CRC is pro-abortion and pro-adolescent health but “there is nothing in the convention that would suggest anything that the CRC is pro-abortion.”


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