States must enact and enforce effective legislation

International treaties

Convention on the Rights of the Child: 196 States Parties
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: 168 States Parties
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography: 175 States Parties
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure: 41 States Parties
Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime: 173 States Parties
ILO Convention 138 Minimum Age Convention: 171 States Parties
ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour: 182 States Parties
ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Workers: 26 States Parties

The legal framework of a country is a system made of different kinds of legal documents. It includes the Constitution and many laws, rules and even courts’ decisions. When a State ratifies the Convention on the Rights of the Child or other treaties, it commits to make sure that its national legal framework conforms to those international standards.

Legislation to protect children from violence is by nature complex and wide-ranging. For the legal system to be effective, it has to be comprehensive, coherent and accessible. Continuous review is needed to fill gaps in implementation and to address emerging concerns, including those arising from the use of new technologies, harmful practices, and those that emerge across borders and affect migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking children.

Experiences throughout the world have shown that law reform initiatives have been particularly successful when promoted through an inclusive and participatory process, with involvement of key stakeholders, such as governmental departments, parliamentarians, independent national institutions for children’s rights and key actors in civil society, including professional groups, local authorities and religious leaders, as well as children themselves.

Legislation needs to be supported by well-coordinated and well-resourced services and institutions. It is important to ensure ethical standards and guidance for professionals and institutions working for and with children. Within justice systems, it is critical to build the capacity needed to prevent, investigate, eliminate impunity and provide assistance to victims, while ensuring that children are not re-victimized during their contact with the justice system. For lasting impact, law reform initiatives should also include a clear plan of implementation, with an estimation of costs and an anticipated allocation of resources to meet them.

In a nutshell:

The law is an essential component of a robust national child protection system. Legislation should:

Safeguard the supremacy of the human rights of all children, including those at greater risk;
Prohibit and deter all incidents of violence;
Guide the work and ethical standards of institutions and professionals working with and for children;
Provide redress, recovery and social reintegration of child victims;
Eliminate impunity;
Provide for child-sensitive counselling, reporting and complaint mechanisms that are easily accessible to children and keep them safe from the risk of reprisals;
Be integrated in a broader strategy to promote and protect children’s rights, including measures to secure and monitor implementation.

In this section, you can find:

Examples on how States use legislation to prohibit violence
Examples of laws that prevent violence
Examples of Constitutions that have integrated the Convention on the Rights of the Child into the national legal system
Examples of establishing complaints mechanisms through law
Links to useful resources in the field of law reform