The rights of the child

Last updated: 22/3-2023

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, or the Children’s Rights Convention (UNCRC) as it is often called, was adopted in 1989. The Children’s Rights Convention contains rights that every child is to have and applies for everyone up to age 18 who live or stay in a country. In the Children’s Convention, “children” refers to both young children and adolescents – everyone up to age 18.

The rights are enumerated the different paragraphs, referred to as Articles. There are 54 Articles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and 41 of them speak about rights. The rest of the Articles deal with what work the countries need to do to make the rights in the UNCRC a reality.

Articles 2, 3, 6 and 12 are referred to as the UNCRC's core principles, or Guiding Principles. These Articles will help you understand the other Articles. All Articles in the UNCRC are related to each other.

Barnombudsmannen has reformulated and shortened the articles to make the text easier to understand. The articles have also been arranged in 10 categories, to give you an overview of what each is about.

12. You have the right to express your views on any issue that concerns you. Adults should listen and take your opinions into account. When a public authority or court is dealing with or makes a decision which concerns you, you have the right to be heard.

13. You have the right to freedom of speech. This means that you have the right to search for and receive information and ideas, as well as provide information and express ideas to others.

14. You have the right to think and feel what you want. You have the right to follow your beliefs and be a part of whatever religion you want to. Your parents may guide you, but never determine your thoughts.

15. You have the right to belong to associations, and the right to leave associations. You also have the right to attend meetings, as long as they are peaceful.

7. You have the right to have a name and to be a citizen of a country. You also have the right, as far as it is possible, to know who your parents are and to be well taken care by them.

8. You have the right to your identity. What is meant by "identity" includes your citizenship in your country, your name, and your family relations. If you have been deprived of your identity or any part of it, you must receive assistance to regain it.

17. You have the right to know what's happening in your country and in the world, in a way that you can understand, such as from newspapers and television. The information you receive will help you to develop and live a healthy life.

5. Your parents have the responsibility to care and protect you. They will advise you and guide you as you do the things that Child Rights Convention entitles you to.

9. No one may separate you from your parents, except when it is necessary for your own good. This may be necessary and occur if for instance your parents do not take care of you in an appropriate manner. You have the right to see both of your parents, unless this would be harmful in some serious way for you.

10. If you and your parents want to be reunited after having been separated, you must be allowed to seek help with this, and so to the extent feasible get help in the country where you live. If your parent(s) live in a different country and you want to see them, you should be able to get help for this by the country where you live.

18. Your parents have joint responsibility for your upbringing and development. They should always think about what is best for you. If your parents need support, the society at large should ensure such support is available, for instance to get such social care, health care, or assistance with schooling.

20. If you cannot remain in your family for some reason, you have the right to receive special care and assistance. You have the right to be taken care of in a way that is good for you.

21. The countries that allow adoption must ensure that the adoption is properly done and that you who are adopted are treated well. All countries must always base the rules and procedures on what is best for the child.

2. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child gives you and all other children the same rights and equal value. No one may discriminate against you. This means that no one should treat you worse than they do someone else. Nor may you be discriminated against or punished for something that your parents are or do.

23. If you have a physical disability, you still have the right to a good life. Just like everyone else, you should be able to feel pride and have self-confidence. You should be able to actively participate in the community. However you also have the right to special care and extra support.

30. If you belong to a minority group or indigenous group, you have the right to your language, the culture and the religion that you share and exercise along with the others in your group.

3. When adults make decisions relating to children, they should ensure that this is done with the child's "best interests" in mind. This means that adults should always consider what is good for you and how the decision will impact on you. You must get the protection and care you need. It is equally important that adults think of the "best interests" of children in general when the decision affects many children or children as a group.

6. You have the right to live and develop with your personal growth. Your country must do everything it can so that you will be able to do that.

22. Those of you who come as refugees, whether on your own or with someone else, have a right to protection and assistance. You should also receive help to be reunited with your family.

24. You have the right to be as healthy as possible. If you become ill, you have the right to medical treatment and exercise so that you become healthy. You also have the right to be protected against traditional practices that can be harmful.

25. If you have been taken under care in order to protect you or be well looked after, you are entitled to have your care monitored, so that everything relating to your care goes right for you.

26. You have the right to social protection. If necessary, community can help to ensure that you receive housing, food and clothing.

27. You have the right to live in a way that gives you the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, spiritually, morally and socially. Your parents have the primary responsibility for ensuring this, but if they need support, they should get it.

39. If you have been subjected to any form of neglect, exploitation or abuse, you are entitled to get help so that you feel good again. This applies even if you have been subjected to torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or if you have been in a war.

11. You may not be brought to another country without both of your parents' permission.

16. You have the right to be protected from illegal invasion of your privacy or private life. This applies to your home, or where you are temporarily staying. For example, no one may read your letters or diaries without your permission. This also applies to all other situations in which information about you is obtained and/or retained. No one may not harm your honour or your reputation. The law must give you strong protection against any intrusion.

19. You have the right to protection from all forms of physical or mental violence, neglect, maltreatment, molestation, abuse or other exploitation.

32. You are to be protected against performing any work that may be harmful to you, that which prevents you from going to school, or from developing in another way. You may not be subjected to financial exploitation, for example, that someone else makes money from your work without you yourself being paid.

33. It is the State's responsibility to protect you against narcotics and other illegal drugs. The States must ensure that you are not exploited for the manufacture or sale of drugs.

34. You have the right to protection from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For example, you must be protected from exploitation in prostitution and pornography.

35. You may not be taken away or sold. Your country must ensure that this does not occur.

36. You have the right to protection from all forms of exploitation that may harm you.

37. Under no circumstances may you be subjected to torture or other cruel and inhuman treatment. Also, nor may you not be sentenced to the death penalty or life imprisonment. If you are arrested, detained or are being held against your will, this must be as a last resort and for as short a time as feasible. You must always be treated with respect and you have the right not to be placed among adults. You have the right to contact with your family while you are incarcerated, and that your case is dealt with promptly. Your rights in the UNCRC apply even if you are held against your will.

38. If you are under 15, you must be protected from participating in war. If you have suffered from a war, you are to get the protection and the care you need.

40. If you are suspected of a crime, or if it is proven that you are guilty of a crime, you have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. The governmental authorities and institutions that you come in contact with during the judicial process must be adapted for youth. You have the right to obtain assistance from an individual is well-versed in the law and legal system. Your case must be dealt with as quickly as feasible. No one may force you against your will to tell what you know, or to admit to something you have not done.

28. You have the right to an education. You must be able to attend primary school, and it should be free.

29. In school, you must be allowed to develop in every way, and to become prepared for a responsible life in a free society. You should also learn to respect human rights and freedoms, your parents, your own culture and the culture and traditions of others, and to protect nature and the environment.

31. You have the right to recreation, to play, and to rest. You have the right to participate in cultural and artistic activities and events.

1. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child applies to individuals until age 18. In the UNCRC, everyone under 18 years old is referred to as a "child."

4. All countries must do all they can to implement the rights in the UNCRC. That means they should always try to comply with what is stated in the UNCRC.

41. If the laws and rules of your country already give you more or better rights than those stated in the UNCRC, the country's laws and rules apply.

42. Your country has the responsibility to ensure that children and adults know what is contained in the UNCRC.

The Child Convention in Sweden

The Child Convention has the status of law in Sweden. What this means is that all government agencies and courts of law must respect children's rights. It gives them and other decision-makers greater responsibilities and opportunities to:

  • apply the rights described in the Child Convention in their work.
  • let children take part in the decisions that concern them.
  • focus on assessing and determining what is best for the child.

The Child Convention applies in the same way as other laws in Sweden, such as the Social Services Act (socialtjänstlagen), the Education Act (skollagen) and the Children and Parents Code (föräldrabalken).

Giving the Child Convention the status of law makes it clear that children are individuals with their own rights. In other words, children must not be seen as the property of parents or guardians, but as self-determined individuals with specific rights.

The government must further ensure that both children and adults learn what rights children have.