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Updated 06/23/2006

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child was quickly signed by every U.N. state and has been ratified by all nations except Somalia and the United States. Somalia cannot move forward with the ratification process since it has no recognized government.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted on Nove. 20, 1989, and came into force on Sept. 2, 1990. After much debate centered on cultural perceptions of age, the convention defined a child as any person under the age of 18 years old unless domestic law defines the age of maturity as earlier. The convention marks a conceptual shift from rights of the caretaker to the child as a subject of rights. Children were legally treated as possessions in many countries prior to the convention's adoption. 


The convention gives basic rights to children including the rights to life and a nationality, freedom of expression and religion, protection from abuse and exploitation, the right to an education and the right to be cared for by an adult. The convention prohibits military conscription of children under the age of 15 as well as capital punishment for children under 18, a restriction that likely prevents the U.S. from ratifying.

The CRC has two optional protocols: the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which came into force on Feb. 12, 2002 and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which came into force on Jan. 18, 2002. In an anomalous move, the United States ratified the optional protocols without having ratified the mother treaty.  

For more information


Web site of the Convention on the Rights of the Child