William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,1 adopted by the General Assembly on November 20, 1989, is a ground-breaking human rights treaty for many reasons. It had the largest number of signatories on the day that it was opened for signature.2 It went into force more quickly than any other human rights treaty;3 it reached near-universal ratification by mid-1996;4 and it protects the entire range of human rights: civilpolitical, economic-social-cultural, and humanitarian.5 In addition, the Convention's monitoring mechanism gives unique powers to its monitoring body, the Committee on the Rights of the Child.6 Unfortunately, these achievements have tended to overshadow one of the Convention's most remarkable characteristics: its protection of the girl child.

The purpose of this article is to describe, examine, analyze, and evaluate the Convention on the Rights of the Child from the standpoint of its relationship to other international human-rights treaties and its impact on the global situation and status of girls and young women. The discussion will include a survey of the international human rights principle of non-discrimination, and an examination of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and its relevance to the girl child. The article will further provide an overview of the current world situation of girls; an analysis of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its implementation, including nontreaty based efforts to eliminate prejudice against girls; and an exploration of existing tensions between women's rights and children's rights. It is the author's position that the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be recognized as an important feminist landmark.