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Children's Rights

Status Of Children Worldwide

Despite this progress, there are still many concerns about the status of children worldwide. According to the International Child Saving Alliance and a report by UNICEF, in 1999 650 million children still lived in poverty; 12 million children under age five died every year, many of preventable illnesses; 130 million children, especially girls, had no schooling; 160 million children were malnourished; 250 million children were involved in some type of child labor, often in unsanitary and harsh conditions; and over 300,000 children were estimated to be fighting in armed conflicts throughout the world. Added to this is the fact that, although there has been an increase in global wealth, the gap between the rich and the poor of the world is widening.

These statistics suggest that many children are still not enjoying the rights to basic health and welfare guaranteed in the Convention. Additionally, the Convention has been criticized by some as being culturally narrow and as promoting mainly Western ways of thinking about children and families. For instance, in 1994 Joan Miller asserted that cultures could be divided into those that are primarily rights-based versus those that are more duty-based. In rights-based cultures, individual freedom and personal preference is emphasized whereas in duty-based cultures, which include many Asian societies, fulfilling social obligations to others is more important. Some writers, such as Virginia Murphy-Berman (1996), argue that these types of cultural differences are reflected in variations in how children and families are viewed worldwide. For instance, there are variations worldwide in (1) what is seen as the appropriate distribution of power between parents and children in families, including what type of decisionmaking voice is allowed to children; (2) the degree to which children are encouraged to act on the basis of individual preference versus adhere to social norms and customs; (3) the scope of duty and responsibility family members have for themselves, their immediate and extended families, and their society; and (4) the importance of individual freedom versus family and group loyalties. Murphy-Berman and others suggest that, because of its emphasis on equality of relationships, individual rights, choice, and freedom of expression, the Convention is Western in tone. Other commentators, such as Gary Melton (1996), assert that the Convention is culturally inclusive because it protects the child's rights to a "family environment" and not a specific type of family structure.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodChildren's Rights - Historical Roots Of The Children's Rights Movement, Universal Standards On The Rights Of Children