Know Your Rights

An article about U.S. constitutional rights and the U.N.'s Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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Throughout history, rulers and dictators have taken away people's rights. In many parts of the world today people can't worship as they please, talk freely, gather with groups of friends, or travel. If you feel that everyone is always telling you whatto do and that you have no rights, you're wrong! Children are protected by the same laws that protect adults, such as the Bill of Rights. Children also have their own rights, which were developed by the United Nations. It's important to know your rights andto stand up for yourself.

The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution in the form of amendments. The chief purpose of the amendments was to protect the rights of individuals from the government's interference. They guarantee rights such as religious freedom, freedom of thepress, and trial by jury to all American citizens.

  • First Amendment: Freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, the right to assemble, the right to petition government.
  • Second Amendment: The right to form a militia and to keep and bear arms.
  • Third Amendment: The right not to have soldiers in one's home.
  • Fourth Amendment: Protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
  • Fifth Amendment: No one can be tried for a serious crime unless indicted (accused) by a grand jury. No one can be forced to testify against herself or himself. No one can be punished without due process of law. People must be paid for propertytaken for public use.
  • Sixth Amendment: People have a right to a speedy trial, to legal counsel, and to confront their accusers.
  • Seventh Amendment: People have the right to a jury trial in civil suits exceeding $20.
  • Eighth Amendment: Protection against excessive bail (money to release a person from jail), stiff fines, and cruel and unusual punishment.
  • Ninth Amendment: Because there are so many basic human rights, not all of them could be listed in the Constitution. This amendment means that the rights that are enumerated cannot infringe upon rights that are not listed in the Constitution.
  • Tenth Amendment: Powers not given to the federal government by the Constitution belong to the states or the people.

Other Important Amendments

Thirteenth Amendment (1865): Slavery shall not be allowed in the U.S.

Nineteenth Amendment (1920): Women have the right to vote.

Twenty-sixth Amendment (1971): U.S. citizens who are 18 years of age or older have the right to vote. (Previously, they had to be 21 years old.)

Your Rights as a Child

In 1989, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child because “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care” and because “in allcountries of the world, there are children living in exceptionally difficult conditions.” Following are highlights of the 41 articles of rights. Note: The CRC has been ratified by all the countries in the U.N. except for Somalia and the United States.

  1. Every child has a right to life.
  2. Every child has a right to a name at birth and a nationality.
  3. Every child has the right to live with his or her parent unless it is against the child's best interests.
  4. Special protection shall be given to refugee children.
  5. Every child has the right to the highest standard of health and medical care possible.
  6. The child has a right to education. The state is to ensure that primary education is free and compulsory.
  7. No child shall be subjected to torture, cruel treatment, unlawful arrest, or deprivation of liberty.
  8. Children under 15 shall not be recruited into the armed forces.
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