This is a defining moment for children’s rights in Scotland - Rhona Love
On Tuesday, 16 March, 2021, amidst many bleak stories and statistics, a ray of hope surfaced in Scotland’s news. Historically unprecedented, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was incorporated into Scots Law.
The UNCRC has 54 articles, each defining a right that children must have access to, and instructions on how adults should support these rights. All 196 countries that have ratified this convention are duty-bound to ensure children’s rights are widely known, and applied to everybody under the age of 18, without any discrimination. However, these duties cannot be guaranteed unless the convention is implemented into domestic law, as Scotland has now done. From the right to identity to protection from exploitation, every article in the convention will be defended equally, by law, in Scotland.
This decision for incorporation certainly hasn’t been rushed into and it’s crucial in these uncertain times to ensure children’s needs are met. In fact, young people, child human rights defenders and other organisations have been campaigning for this for over a decade. It’s thanks to the work and determination of children and young people that we have seen the importance of protecting children’s rights on the political agenda. We can see this through policies like Getting it Right for Every Child and the Children (Scotland) Act 2020, alongside consistent consultation of the UNCRC when issuing Covid-19 guidelines which has made Scotland’s complete incorporation of the convention an achievable action.
Children’s rights are not just token legislation. They are a promise. By directly incorporating the UNCRC into Scots Law there is a legal promise to protect the lives and freedoms of every person under 18. As well as benefiting our society, it’s my hope that this definitive action will inspire similar change worldwide. This is especially true when very few nations have directly incorporated the UNCRC into domestic law, with Scotland being the first country in the UK to do so. Scotland is now in a position to be a positive role model for the defence of children’s rights on a global scale.
In addition to legal changes, the incorporation of the Rights of the Child will incite a change in our cultural attitude towards children and their societal role. Children are no longer to be “seen and not heard”. We’re the subjects of rights, with opinions and voices that deserve to be listened to. This is exactly the ethos of Girlguiding Scotland who I am proud to represent. Our goals are to uplift the voices of young women, equip them with skills required for success in their future, and provide safe spaces for them to enjoy other girls’ company. By providing opportunities for girls to feel safe and heard, we ensure our members can access their rights to education, leisure, and participation in matters that affect them.
So, from one young person to any other who reads this – congratulations! This is a huge achievement worthy of celebration. You can now continue learning about and advocating for your rights, with your rights enshrined in law. The passing of this legislation is merely the beginning of Scotland’s journey to a society where children have an equal platform. In a world so desperately in need of hope, compassion and equity, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Rhona Love, Girlguiding Scotland Speak Out champion
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