As the children’s rights advocate for Human Rights Watch, one of the questions I’m asked most frequently is why the US has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Currently, only two other countries – South Sudan and Somalia – have yet to ratify the convention, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.
But the US is now in danger of becoming a club of one. Last Wednesday, South Sudan’s parliament voted to ratify the convention. The same day – the 24th anniversary of the convention – Somalia’s president pledged that his country would ratify it soon.
South Sudan and Somalia have some reasonable excuses for not having ratified the child rights convention more quickly. South Sudan gained independence only two years ago, and Somalia has struggled for more than two decades to establish a functioning government. The US has no such defense.
One of the biggest barriers to US ratification is an aggressive misinformation campaign by “parental rights” organizations, claiming that the convention will undermine American families. These groups have promoted ludicrous scenarios of what will happen if the US ratifies the convention, saying parents will be put in prison if they fail to vaccinate their child, that children will be forced to sing songs about the United Nations in school, and that children will have to begin mandatory sex education at the age of four. None of these claims are true.
In reality, the Convention on the Rights of the Child makes numerous references to the importance of the family.