By Haruna Isa
Children’s Day is a Day set aside every May 27, to celebrate children’s emancipation and to alleviate their suffering. Every year the celebration comes with different face. Sometimes, it comes amidst challenges or sufferings children are into, especially looking at those children held in captivity and those in the Internally Displace Camps (IDPs).
In Nigeria, especially the North Eastern Region, children are in deplorable conditions and may not regard the day as worth celebrating. While the story is different among those children some part of Nigeria and the developed countries, where they really enjoyed and being protected from suffering.
Children in Northeastern Nigeria suffered most as they experienced the inhumane activities of the insurgents, which rendered to their setback in education, and falled into other social challenges. This year’s celebration worth cerebrating as compared to previous years when children in some part of the country were in captivity, but though this year there is a little progress as regards to the rights of the child to enjoy in a democratic dispensation.
What then are Children’s Rights?
Children’s rights are the human rights of children with particular attention to the rights of special protection and care afforded to minors.The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child(CRC) defines a child as any human being below the age of eighteen years, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. Children’s rights includes their right to association with both parents, human identity as well as the basic needs for physical protection, food, universal state-paid education, health care, and criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child, equal protection of the child’s civil rights, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of the child’s race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, color, ethnicity, or other characteristics. Interpretations of children’s rights range from allowing children the capacity for autonomous action to the enforcement of children being physically, mentally and emotionally free from abuse, though what constitutes “abuse” is a matter of debate. Other definitions include the rights to care and nurturing. There are no definitions of other terms used to describe young people such as “adolescents”, “teenagers”, or “youth” in international law, but the children’s rights movement is considered distinct from the youth rights movement. The field of children’s rights spans the fields of law, politics, religion, and morality.
In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although this law was passed at the Federal level, it is only effective if State assemblies also start it.The Children’s Rights Act 2003 (CRA) was created to serve as a legal documentation and protection of Children rights and responsibilities in Nigeria.
The law has three primary purposes: to incorporate the rights of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights into the national law, to provide the responsibilities of government agencies associated with the law and to integrate children-focused legislation into one comprehensive law. It also acts as a legislation against Human trafficking since it forbids children from being “separated from … parents against their will, except where it is in the best interests of the child.
The Nigerian child is protected under the Child’s Right Act and the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria .These laws are put in place to ensure that a child is treated properly and with dignity.
The following are the rights of a Nigerian child;
• Right to survival and development: Survival can be ensuring the child has a roof over his head, food to eat, and also protected from danger at all times. Development includes education, every child has the right to an education so as to develop him\her mentally.
• Right to Name: every child is entitled to a name at the time of his birth or any other time which maybe according to culture. In Nigeria, most cultures celebrate a naming ceremony after 8 days of birth. The child is also entitled to registration of his/her birth.
• Right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly: every child is entitled to free association and peaceful assembly. This right is however subject to guidance from parents or guardians. A parent may dictate the association of a child where it is in the best interest of the child.
• Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion: a child is entitled to his own thought, conscience and religion, but this is also subject to guidance from parents. Authorities must also respect the exercise of this legal right to direct by the parents.
• Right to private life and family: there must be no interference whatsoever with the privacy of a child, telephone correspondence, telephone conversation and telegraphic communication. Parents and guardians may reasonably supervise and conduct the children.
• Right to freedom of movement: This right is also subject to supervision from parents and guardians which is in the best interest of the child.
• Right to freedom from discrimination: every child has a right to be free from discrimination, be it the circumstances of his birth, his legitimacy, his race, social status. In the southern part of Nigeria, some persons are tagged ‘OSU’ or outcast and are not allowed to mix with the normal citizens or buy or sell to them, or even marry from within them. This tradition has been upheld as repugnant to natural justice and good conscience and it is illegal to deny any person his rights as a human being by virtue of this tradition. This right also covers traditions that discriminate against female children and deny them the property of their parents after the demise of their parents.
• Right to dignity of the child : every child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and no child should be ;
• Subjected to physical, mental and emotional abuse, neglect, maltreatment including sexual abuse. Defilement of a child carries a strict penalty.
• Subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This can include punishments like inserting pepper in the private parts of children, burning them with hot water or fire, cutting of their fingers to teach them a lesson.
• Subjected to attacks upon his honor or reputation.
• Held in slavery or servitude while in the care of the parents, legal guardian or school authority having the care of the child. This includes sending the child of a school age to hawk on major roads, using a child under 18 years as domestic help which is very popular in these parts, using the child to beg for alms, prostitution, for pornographic purposes.
• Right to leisure, recreation and cultural activities: every child is entitled to rest and leisure as these help the development of the child.
• Right to health and health services: every child is entitled to enjoy the best attainable state of physical, mental and spiritual health. The government must provide medical assistance, reduce infant mortality rate, and ensure provision of adequate nutrition and drinking water.
From the foregoing, the UNICEF, UN and Nigerian governments from the grassroot levels should have to strike a balance in ensuring that the right of every Nigerian child is protected and provide the children with any support if needed.
Haruna Isa, is a seasoned journalist, feature/opinion writer, researcher and programmes’ producer at SAWABA FM Radio Hadejia, Jigawa state. He can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org