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The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the first binding instrument in international law to deal comprehensively with the human rights of children, and is notable for the inclusion of an article specifically concerned with the rights of children with disabilities. The implementation of the CRC is monitored and promoted at the international level by the Committee on the Rights of the Child:

The CRC identifies four general principles that provide the foundation for the realization of all other rights:

  • non-discrimination;
  • the best interests of the child;
  • survival and development;
  • respect for the views of the child.

The principle of non-discrimination is reflected in article 2 of the CRC that expressly prohibits discrimination on the grounds of disability:

States parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child
…without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s…disability…or other status.

This principle is motivated by the recognition that segregated or separate facilities for education, health care, recreation and all other aspects of human life on the basis of disability can create and consolidate exclusion. These factors often perpetuate the negative perception of a child with a disability as the CRC, including freedom from discrimination, respect for the dignity of the child and the cultivation of her or his potential to assume a responsible and independent life in society. They may be seen to be particularly relevant to the situation of children with disabilities in the following provisions:

  • The child’s right not to be separated from his or her family (article 9).
  • Services and assistance to support parents in their child-rearing responsibilities (article 18).
  • Protection from injury, neglect and any form of violence (article 19).
  • Protection of children deprived of a family environment (article 20).
  • Refugee children (article 22).
  • Periodic review of treatment (article 25).
  • The child’s right to free and compulsory primary education, to secondary and vocational education and the prevention of drop out (article 28).
  • Children belonging to minorities and indigenous people (article 30).
  • Protection from work that interferes with education (article 32).
  • Protection from abuse (article 33).
  • Protection from sexual exploitation (article 34).
  • Protection from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and from deprivation of liberty (article 37).
  • Right to rehabilitative care for victims of neglect, exploitation, abuse or degrading treatment (article 39).

The implementation of the CRC is monitored at the international level by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which oversees the progress made by States parties in promoting the realization of children’s human rights. Reiterating its concern with the rights of children with disabilities, in 2006 the Committee issued a General Comment on this particular topic (see chapter 5 below for discussion of the Committee’s comments and policy recommendations concerning children with disabilities).


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