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A Right to Your Rights!
This story appears in the December 2018 issue of School LIVE.
Day in and day out we are told we have ‘rights’ — right to education, right to equality and right to information, among many others. But do we ever pause and wonder what these could possibly mean? We may think these are just another set of rules scribbled somewhere, however, each of these rights play an important role in shaping our lives. On the occasion of World Human Rights Day on 10th of December, let’s understand our basic rights and what each of them means.

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity” - Nelson Mandela


Give a man unexplored power and authority and he alone can control the rest of the clan. But, give the remaining people information of their rights and you will empower them with the knowledge of what is unjust and what is right. Such is the power of these tools, which we refer to as ‘RIGHTS’.

For those of us who are unaware of how these rights came into existence, let us take a step back and understand how it all began. We are all aware that our world has witnessed two horrible and fatal wars, World War I and II, which were responsible for mass destruction across the globe. It took ages for nations around the world to limp back to normalcy after the devastation caused by these two wars.

To prevent any further catastrophe and to make sure that the coming generations do not witness such dreadful wars, the United Nations (UN) was formed on 24th October, 1945. Till date, UN has worked to establish itself as the most credible and prestigious intergovernmental organisation around the world. To roughly state its founding ideal, UN works to help smoothen out differences between countries, and maintain peace between the nations at a global level. When UN first came to life, it was just 51 countries strong, and today there are a total of 193 sovereign states are part of the UN. India became a member nation of the UN on 30th October 1945, while it was still a British colony.

In the year 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This vital document has for years defined and shaped the lives of all those nations, which had decided to become members of the UN Council. The UDHR is a document listing 30 articles on the rights of all beings, irrespective of their gender, creed and economic status. This path breaking document slowly became the most popular amongst the UN member nations. It has since then been translated to over 500 languages so that people all across the globe know of their basic human rights. This year the successful implementation of UDHR will mark its 70th Anniversary.

There are a number of institutes that work towards the Child rights in India. They are CRY (Child Rights and You), Save the Children, Bal Vikas Dhara-New Delhi, Bachpan Bachao Andolan and CHORD-Hyderabad.

The UDHR paved the way for the formation of a document which focused exclusively on child rights. In the year 1989, the global community went ahead and adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC), which made it the first international legal document concerning child rights. UNCRC consisted of 54 articles covering four major categories of child rights: Right to life, right to development, right to protection and right to participation. All these rights were unanimously accepted by all the founding nations on September 2nd 1990, and today these laws have been accepted globally by 196 countries! India came on board and signed the UNCRC on 11th December 1992, agreeing to almost all its clauses except that pertaining to Child Labour. Let us take a closer look at some of the rights rendered to the minors according to the UNCRC.

RIGHT TO SURVIVAL: It was Darwin who formulated the theory of ‘Survival of the fittest’. But, how can one be part of this principle when they aren’t even provided with the bare minimum to survive? The first and foremost right given is of that to live. According to UNCRC, every child born has the right to be equipped with the bare minimum requirements such as food, shelter and clothing. Any child born needs to be given proper care and the correct environment so that they can get a  fair chance to live and survive.


RIGHT TO PROTECTION: What makes our homes and schools different from the world outside? It is the basic feeling of safety and well-being that these spaces provide. Hence, the second right that governs all the minors is the right to a protective environment. With the increase in adverse conditions and change in times, everyone is potentially at threat due to unavoidable circumstances. Under the ‘Right to Protection,’ children need to be protected from any kind of harm, be it from neglect, violence or usage of harmful drugs.


RIGHT TO PARTICIPATION: Every minor of today is tomorrow going to become a rightful citizen of their country. They need to be governed by the right to information as only a well informed citizen will be able to know what is right for them and society around them. When there is any decision that will have a direct or indirect effect on a child, they need to have access to a platform to voice out their concerns and opinions.


RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT: We keep hearing about the overall development of any being, but what are these factors that ensure this overall development? In the initial ages, everyone has a right to develop physically and emotionally, esp with a strong base of education. In the year 2009, India enacted the Right to Education Act (RTE), through which it inscribed the importance of free and compulsory education for children between the age of 6 to 14 years. With this act in place, India became one of the 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child. Therefore, the ‘Right of Education’ which is one of the most crucial rights for the proper development of a child needs to be adhered to at all times. It ties up with the basic right for any child to develop mentally, physically and emotionally.


In a world where there are so many changes that occur everyday, it is only more critical for all to be aware of the laws which safeguard and protect them from all things ill. A country will be only as powerful and strong as its people are, and the first step to becoming powerful is by exercising your rights and know what role they play.

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