Do children have rights? PDF Print E-mail

Are you a young person growing up on planet earth? If yes, then you automatically have rights, which are called ‘human rights' (for Martian children's rights - find a different website!).


What are ‘human rights’?


Human rights are what we call ‘inalienable fundamental rights’. A person (including a child) is naturally entitled to these rights, simply because she/he is a human being. ‘Inalienable’ means that you cannot be denied these rights, BUT these rights can be limited.


Other people have rights too – just like you, and all people’s rights must be respected. Therefore, at times other people’s rights will overlap and limit your own rights.


For example:


Themba and Susan go to the same school. One day, Susan gets cross with Themba for not wanting to share her pencils in class. In anger, Susan tells Themba that she is the most stingy and selfish person in the world.

Themba feels very sad about this.


In this example, Susan has the right to say how she feels, which is called the right to freedom of speech. BUT Themba has the right to have her dignity respected,and therefore not to be made fun of. It is clear here that Susan’s right to say how she feels is limited by how it makes Themba feel.


How do I know what rights there are?

There are many human rights, for example: you have the right to a name; a nationality (to belong to a country); to food, clothing, and a safe place to live; to live with your parents (unless it is bad for you, but then to have special care); to give your opinion and have adults listen to you; to have an education; to choose your own religion; to be cared for and protected, etc.

All these rights are contained in a number of very important international documents specifically written for children. These documents explain the
contents of the rights of children, that other children and adults (including our parents, teachers and the government) need to respect and fulfil.

The most important of these documents are:

  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; and
  • The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. 

 The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

Almost every country in the world has agreed to these rights, including South Africa.

Therefore, all people in South Africa have to protect and fulfil these rights of children.

If you want to find out more about these rights, click on the picture.


The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child:

When the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was drafted, Africa realized that its children needed additional special care because children are so very important in African Cultures, adn have different circumstances to other children in the world. The governments in Africa therefore developed an African document, very similar to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but with additional rights and responsibilities for African children.

If you would like to find out more, click on the following link: For Children and Youth.


South Africa - How do we guarantee rights for childen?

The South African Constitution:

Human Rights for people in South Africa are contained in a very important document called the South African Constitution. This document is important as it lists all the rights that people, and especially children, are entitled to. It also shows people what they could do if they feel that these rights are not respected.

The Constitution specifically provides for certain special rights for children, over and above the other rights available to people in South Africa.

One of the most important rights for children in the Constitution, is the right to have their best interests taken into account in every matter that concerns that child. This means that in every matter where a child is involved, adults must consider the circumstances of children and make sure that their actions and choices are in the child's best interests.

For more on the rights of children in the Constitution, click on section 28 in the following link: The South African Constitution 


The Children's Act:

South Africa also provides for all of these rights and more, in the Children's Act.

The Children's Act was written after the government accepted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

The aim of the Act is to make sure that children are able to grow up safely and develop well, and where they are abused or neglected, that they will be helped to recover.

The Act also says that children are allowed to have their say and participate in decisions that affect their lives.

The Act values families and tries to ensure that they are protected and supported. Sometimes parents are unable to look after their children properly, then the Act will try and help them through programmes that show them how to become better parents. When parents are not able to look after their children properly, even after they attended a programme, then the Act will help children to find another family or adults with which to stay. The Act also provides for rules to ensure proper and safe after-care, crèches, drop in centres, and child and youth care centres; and for children to consent to their own adoption.

The Act provides for many many more issues around children, so if you are interested, click on the pictures below.

Childrens Act pic 1      Childrens Act pic 2 



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Latest News

23 October 2017

Court outlaws "reasonable chastisement" defence to corporal punishment of children in the home

"Parents should think twice about lifting their hands to their children; those who hit children will no longer be able to plead special defence in court if criminally charged. 

The Gauteng High Court, Joburg, ruled on Thursday that the defence of reasonable chastisement was not in line with the constitution and no longer applied in law. 

The judgment did not create a new offence, as hitting a child, whether your own or someone else's, has always been assault under the country’s criminal law." - Zelda Venter

Read more of Zelda Venter's article here .


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Zita and Ann from CCL outside court on the day the judgment was handed down. CCL represented three of the parties in the matter. Download the judgment here .


Prohib of corporal punishment in Africa

Read stats on corporal punishment in Africa here .


Centre for Child Law