I have the right to be listened to, and taken seriously.
One of the things the UNCRC does is to make it clear that human rights apply to children and young people, just as they do to adults. This is as true in Scotland as it is anywhere else in the world.
For example, Article 12 of the UNCRC says that children and young people have the human right to have opinions and for these opinions to matter. It says that the opinions of children and young people should be considered when people make decisions about things that involve them, and they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand on the grounds of age. It also says children and young people should be given the information they need to make good decisions.
Article 12 applies everywhere and to everyone
The opinion of a child and young person should be considered everywhere, including in their home, in their workplace and at school. This is true no matter how young a child or young person is, although the weight their opinion is given should change as they grow up and become more mature.
Article 12 applies to everyone, and care should be taken to make sure it can be exercised by everyone in reality. For example:
- special materials should be produced for children and young people with disabilities if they need these to participate
- special consideration should be given to children and young people in vulnerable situations, such as those in care or refugees
- care should be taken to make sure girls' opinions are respected just as much as boys' are.
Being able to speak up
Article 12 is also concerned with making sure children and young people feel able to express their opinions. It says that they shouldn’t feel their opinions will be dismissed or regarded as invalid because of their age. It also says that children and young people need to know about this right so that they can exercise it, and that adults need to know about this right so they don’t dismiss it out of hand.
Additionally, children and young people should be able to complain about any aspect of your life as easily as adults can. They should have ways to complain about those in a position of power over them – such as parents, guardians or teachers – without an adult knowing, and complaints procedures should be easy for them to access.
Being able to refuse
Article 12 doesn’t mean children and young people have to express an opinion if they don’t want to. They can refuse to give their opinion for any reason, and Article 12 shouldn’t be used to pressure them into giving it.
Making it happen
Article 12 should be taken into account when governments pass laws. New laws should take into account the right of children and young people to have opinions in any and all areas of their lives.
One of the Commissioner’s jobs is to make sure children and young people can have their voices heard. He does this by:
- telling children and young people about Article 12 and the rights that it gives them
- telling adults to think about article 12
- finding out what stops children and young people from having a say, and thinking about how things can be changed.
Article 12 is considered a general principle of the UNCRC. This means it should be considered when thinking about any other articles in the Convention.
Other general principles of the UNCRC include:
- Article 2, which says children and young people should be protected from discrimination
- Article 3, which says the best interests of children and young people should always be considered
- Article 6, which says children and young people have the right to life.
This article is a simplified version of Article 12 of the UNCRC. The full text of the Article can be found below:
1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.
The Commissioner’s Participation and Education team do a lot of work to make sure children, young people and adults understand Article 12. One of the ways they do this is through our 7 Golden Rules for Participation, which help people think about what participation means. Find out about them here
Find out about our symbol-supported version of the Golden Rules, designed as a communication tool for children and young people who:
- are non-verbal
- have speech and language difficulties
- have additional support needs.