The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter called the Convention) is the foundation of international human rights law for the protection of children. The Convention consolidates the achievements of groups around the world working on children’s development and well-being since the beginning of the 20th century. The spirit of the Convention is to appeal to all society to respect the welfare of children which should be ensured by the State and the family. Apart from establishing the “basic rights of the child”, the Convention also emphasizes the significance and importance of international cooperation, government intervention, and the concept of family as a foundation for child rearing. Contracting States must give children special protection. Accordingly, the Convention seeks to have as many ratifying States as possible, thereby ensuring the rights of each child, within their jurisdiction, will be respected irrespective of the child’s race, color, sex, language, religion, creed, national, ethnic or social origin, property, or disability.
Taiwan Excluded from the Convention
Nevertheless, certain international political reasons have barred the Republic of China on Taiwan (hereinafter Taiwan) from becoming a member of the United Nations. As a result, it has not been allowed to sign and join the Convention, thereby raising problems with respect to as to whether and how Taiwan should implement the Convention’s policies to protect the children within its jurisdiction. Moreover, the Convention requires the worldwide exchange and dissemination of information of social and cultural benefit to children. Since Taiwan is not recognized as a State by the United Nations, it cannot participate in such activities, thus placing Taiwan in an disadvantaged position with regard to the protection of children.
Taiwan’s Record on Children
Over the past fifty years, Taiwan has achieved a significant degree of progress on developing children’s rights. Various laws regarding child protection and welfare have been promulgated according to the Constitution, among which the Child Welfare Law (Amendment), the Juvenile Welfare Law, the Law Governing the Disposition of Juvenile Cases (Amendment), the Law to Suppress Sexual Transactions Involving Children and Juveniles and the Law to Prevent Family Violence are the most significant ones. Courts, law enforcers as well as civic groups are more aware and concerned of cases concerning children. As such, more resources are available for enforcement. Today, children in Taiwan enjoy most of the rights stated in the Convention. The following is a list of achievements and prospects on the part of Taiwan regarding children’s rights. On the whole, this report reveals the fact that both the government and society have recognized the significance of child protection and welfare. The nation has promised to provide a better environment for children in Taiwan.
The Efforts of the Government
A. Basic Rights of the Child under the Constitution
1. personal freedom
2. the right not to be tried by military courts
3. the right to move
4. freedom of expression
5. freedom of communication
6. freedom of religious belief
7. the right to assembly
8. the right to live, the right to work, and the right to property
9. the right to a fair trial
10. the right to be educated
11. other rights not in violation of social order and public interests
B. Special Rights of Children
According to Articles 153 and 156 of the Constitution, the State is obliged to provide all possible resources for child welfare. The laws of the Republic of China have at least achieved the following :
1. Priority right and the principle of the best interests of the child
2. The right to identity
3. The right to family
4. The right to development
5. The right to social welfare
6. The right to play
7. The right to be free from taking part in armed conflicts
The Contribution of Civic Groups
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have played a significant role in the promotion of child welfare and protection in Taiwan. Their main contributions include:
A. Lobbying for the amendment of child-related laws to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
B. To form alliances and networks with international and foreign NGOs to protect children against all forms of mistreatment as well as to promote the physical and mental health of children with special needs.
C. To establish a website (WWW. Web547.org.tw) to fight against child pornography
D. To provide for medical and legal services to local and foreign children who are abused or exploited.
For the Children in Taiwan, but not for the Politics
The United Nations, at this time, does not recognize Taiwan as a State, thereby, excluding Taiwan’s joining the Convention. Therefore, we urge every country in the world to accept Taiwan as a member of the Convention, so as to let our government effectively protect the basic rights of children. Not only does the above omission hurt the children of Taiwan, it also deprives the international human rights community of Taiwan’s knowledge and expertise in this area.
For supporting the children in Taiwan, you may go to www.ecpat.org.tw and sign your name.
For more information, please contact ECPAT-Taiwan
4F-2, No.2, Tai-Shuen St, Taipei 106, Taiwan