Every person is protected by what we call Human Rights, which are freedoms given to all people, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. These freedoms are protected by laws, meaning that if countries and governments were to take these freedoms away, they could be punished by the international community. 

Children on the other hand are not only protected by Human Rights, but also Children's Rights. These are separate freedoms that protect people under the age of 18. Such laws can be found in what we call legal instruments, which are documents containing promises between different people and cannot be broken. 

Why do Children have separate rights? 

One reason for this is that children do not have the power to make decisions for themselves. Instead, such power is given to their parents or caregivers, making them more likely to be in harmful situations. The World Health Organization (WHO) found that in 2022, up to 1 billion children aged 2–17 years, have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect. In Indonesia, girls are more at risk of experiencing harm, including traditions such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) (UNICEF, n.d.). 

Another reason is that children have what we call developmental needs. Unlike adults, children have separate needs to ensure they have a healthy mind and body. However, many children in the world do not receive what they need because of two reasons:

  1. Their caregiver purposely does not give children what they need, creating a situation called Abuse or Neglect
  2. Their caregiver does not have enough money to give children what they need, because of Poverty

Because of this, many children around the world experience an impact on their minds and body, preventing them from growing into healthy adults. One major issue that affects children in Indonesia is Malnutrition. Malnutrition refers to having not enough or too many nutrients (WHO, 2024). In Indonesia, children experience having not enough nutrition, leading them to experience Stunting, which is when they have a low height compared to most people their age. 21.6% of children in Indonesia experienced stunting as of 2022, and the government has continued its efforts to address the issues (Rokom, 2023). Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) specifically talks about the duty of a country to prevent Malnutrition. 

Child Marriage is another common problem that especially affects girls, causing children under the age of 18 to be married. This is because of factors such as poverty, which pushes a family to marry off their daughter in exchange for money. Gender inequality is also another reason why girls are more likely to experience child marriage. In fact, for every boy who experiences child marriage, six girls experience child marriage. It is a problem because it takes away a child’s right to education by preventing them from going to school, and children will not be able to experience a childhood because they have to do household duties. More importantly, being pregnant at a young age is harmful to their physical and mental health. In Indonesia, 16% of girls and 5% of boys experience child marriage (Pradipta, 2023). 

Lastly, Indonesia still experiences a problem with Child Labour. As of 2022, 6.9% of children were working (ILO, 2022).  Article 32 in the UNCRC talks about Child Labour as ‘economic exploitation’, meaning using children to gain money. They mention that countries should do their part in stopping this illegal act, that prevents children from experiencing their rights to education and mental and physical safety. 

The Power of Children’s Rights

By getting acquainted with children’s rights, it helps you identify signs of danger. This can allow you to understand whether you or another child are experiencing harm. Signs of danger may include (*These are not definite signifiers of abuse and neglect, make sure to do your research)

  • Recurring bruising on the body
  • Having an untidy (unmaintained hair, nails, clothes, teeth) and malnourished appearance 
  • Social withdrawal

So to be able to understand the real power of Children’s Rights and use it when needed, you should know about the legal instruments that protect you. Each country has its own laws when it comes to protecting children. But most countries are ratified to international conventions, meaning they have agreed to all the laws listed in a document. Some Children’s Rights Treaties include: 

  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (196 Countries) 
  • African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Countries)
  • Rights of Child Victims and Witnesses/ Hak Anak Korban dan Anak Saksi (Indonesia)
  • Indonesian Convention of 1945 Chapter 28B Section 2/ Undang-Undang Dasar 1945 pasal 28B ayat (2) (Indonesia)

What can we do individually? 

Children’s Rights aren’t just to be used by victims. They are tools that allow us to help others. So if you see or hear anything that shows signs of harm done to children, some of the things you can do are (*Put your safety first and do not recklessly engage in a situation that may put yourself in harm)

  1. Talk to the child while maintaining sympathy and patience
  2. Make sure the child is away from harm before taking the next actions
  3. Get in touch with a Children’s Rights Organization that specializes in issues of Abuse towards children
  4. If you are not comfortable doing so, talk to an adult you trust

Some Children’s Rights Organizations that may help you are:

  • Save the Children (International)
  • Amnesty International (International)
  • Plan International (International)
  • Yayasan PKPA (Indonesia)
  • KPAI (Indonesia)
  • Bali Children’s Project (Indonesia)