Rights are a list of promises to children and young people to keep them safe. They are used to make sure that you are treated fairly and looked after properly.
When something is called a right, it means that nobody can take it away from you. It is yours, and is meant to protect you and help you to have a good life.
Rights for children and young people can be called different things, such as children's rights or youth rights. No matter what they're called, however, they are for both children and young people — the same rights protect you no matter which you are.
This UNCRC film clip also describes rights of children and young people:
Everyone is different
All young people are different and that means they need information and support which suits their exact lives and situations. That's true whether they are white, black, European, Asian, straight, women who have sex with women, gay, bisexual or trans-gendered.
Some young people are having sex, others choose not to, some are in relationships and some are not. Some are able bodied, others are disabled, have learning disabilities, or have sensory impairments. There are young people living at home, in care, or homeless.
There are young people who look after other people. Young people are at school, in further education, working and unemployed.
No matter what situation you are in, the one thing you have in common is that you have rights which have to be respected.
Children and young people have rights to confidentiality
In Scotland you have the same legal right to confidentiality as adults have. This means that services and organisations cannot pass on information about you against your wishes.
There is an important exception to this which is that if someone believes you to be at risk of serious harm they have a duty to make sure you are protected and safe from harm which means that in those circumstances they may pass on confidential information.
When it comes to relationships and sex, we all have rights. We have the right to stay healthy and safe, we have the right to have relationships and we have the right to have sex or, crucially, not to have sex, if we don't want to.
As a young person, you have rights and responsibilities when it comes to sex. Make sure you know what they are.
The age at which it is legal to have sex is called the age of consent (internal link to consent page). In the UK the age of consent is 16 years old for everyone, whether they want to have sex with someone of the same or opposite sex.
Under the age of 16 any sort of sexual touching is illegal.
In the case of someone in a position of trust - like a teacher, for example - having sex with a young person they have responsibility for, it would be against the law if the young person was under 18.
Rights - sex and disability
If you have a disability, you still have equal rights to a full sexual relationship. And you should have just the same access to sex and relationships education, contraception and sexual health care as any other young person.
If you have a disability, you still need to understand:
How you body works and grows
What changes to expect at puberty
The name of all the sex organs and how they work
Relationships and responsibility
How society expects you to act in public
How to prevent an unwanted pregnancy
How to prevent STIs.
What does a healthy relationship look like
What does an unhealthy relationship look like
Where to go for advice
and you will benefit from:
Social contact with children or young people of a similar age
To explore sexuality
Access to relationships and sexual health education
Privacy for private activity
Understanding of private and public areas of the body
If your family or careers find it difficult to discuss sex with you, you may need to have someone you feel able to talk to about it, or help with starting conversations with your family or carers.
Rights of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Young People
LGBT Youth Scotland have been heavily involved in working to highlight the rights of the young people they work with. One result of their work is the LGBT Youth Charter of Rights that emphasises certain UNCRC rights that are particularly important to LGBT young people ; these include:
The right to education and how homophobic bullying in schools hinders LGBT young people’s safety and achievement,
The right to privacy and how LGBT young people’s confidentiality can be crucial for their safety at home and away,
The right to information and how the lack of relevant information (e.g. PSE in schools) may put LGBT young people’s health at risk.
LGBT Youth Scotland has taken on the LGBT Youth Charter of Rights and developed it into a tool for organisations to make their practice more LGBT-inclusive; now this has become the LGBT Charter of Rights.