Nevena Vučković Šahović

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Dignity has different dimensions and features; it ‘belongs’ to philosophy, sociology, psychology and law, but it is also closely related to science, in particular medicine and biology. Respect for human dignity is a supreme, overarching principle of human rights law. Even though dignity is not defined in international law, its place, contents and power become clear in the process of human rights implementation. Dignity, like human rights, is inherent and belongs to each and every human being. Human dignity principle is affirmed in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948 and subsequently in other human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, where dignity appears both in the preamble and in several articles. The main question is how relevant dignity is for the implementation of that treaty. Dignity of the child is not among the general principles of the CRC (best interests of the child, non-discrimination, child participation and right to life, survival and development), even though it is an overarching principle of human rights. In 23-year life of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, there has not been a related event (meeting or a document) devoted to the question of dignity of the child.  The Committee on the Rights of the Child, monitoring body of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, uses in its documents wording such as ‘dignity’, ‘human dignity’, ‘inherent dignity’, ‘dignity of the child’, but it is not clear how beneficial, or even relevant at all, that is for the actual exercise of rights. Maybe now is a right moment for the Committee on the Rights of the Child to address the issue of child dignity and engage in a discussion, initiate a study or even adopt a related General Comment. Such document would be useful for the States Parties, the children and practitioners worldwide. But more than that, it would additionally credit the slight gain over disbelievers in child autonomy and additionally boast the so needed ‘implementation’. The rights-based approach to children still has a heavy odor of pure protection and will be so for as long as children are not perceived as human beings with inherent human dignity and worth. It may be so that ‘child dignity’ approach is a missing link towards full implementation of the rights of the child and change of attitudes so that children are perceived as human beings with autonomy, will, integrity and worth.

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