As human beings, children are entitled to all the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the various treaties that have developed from it. But children also need special protection and care. They must be able to depend on the adult world to take care of them, to defend their rights and to help them to develop and realize their potential. Yet, violence against children is endemic: each day, terrible abuses and acts of violence against children are committed worldwide. They suffer as many of the human rights abuses as the adults, but may also be targeted simply because they are dependent and vulnerable.
The Fifth Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". Nevertheless, children are being tortured and mistreated by state officials; they are detained, lawfully or arbitrarily, often in appalling conditions; in some countries they are subjected to the death penalty. Countless thousands are killed or maimed in armed conflicts; many more have fled their homes to become refugees. Children forced by poverty or abuse to live on the streets are sometimes detained, attacked and even killed in the name of social cleansing. Many millions of children work at exploitative or hazardous jobs, or are the victims of child trafficking and forced prostitution. Because children are "easy targets", they are sometimes threatened, beaten or raped in order to punish family members who are not so accessible.
Amnesty International has been one of the organizations that has denounced this terrible situation in a new report published prior to the Human Rights Day. The report of Amnesty International shows that children who are victims of torture see themselves trapped in military and political conflict situations; that children who are suspicious of having committed criminal acts are exposed to undergo torture at the hands of State agents; that frequently children are detained in conditions that involve danger for their health and physical integrity; and that many children are exposed to receive blows or to undergo sexual abuses at the hands of the same adult that in theory must protect them. There is also indicated that the torture and the bad treatments to the children are not only a social or cultural issue, but a violation of human rights which the State has an obligation to come up with effective measures to prevent.
According to Amnesty International, a "child", in most international legal standards, is anyone under the age of 18. Most of the world's countries have also set the legal age of moajority or adulthood at 18. The term "juvenile" also appears on human rights texts although it is not exactly interchangeable; it usually refers to those who are able to be charged and tried in the juvenile justice system.
Concepts that help define childhood, such as maturity and the age of criminal responsibility,...