Children's rights in the US: Blind spot of a 'beacon of human rights'

On July 1,the largest child sexual abuse case in United States history, which involves more than 84,000 claimants, reached a settlement. The Boy Scouts of America has agreed to offer a $850 million compensation to victims of sexual abuse. Years of efforts finally paid off, but for some of the victims who are already in their 60s and 70s, it has come too late.

This case is only the tip of the iceberg. The following alarming statistics shine a light on the state of America's children.

According to the Child Abuse in the US report published by Statista in March 2021, there were 656,243 reported cases of child abuse in 2019, nearly half of which were against child under nine. 17.5 percent of the victims were physically abused, and 9.3 percent were sexually abused. As many as 1809 fatalities were recorded due to child abuse and maltreatment, which means more than five children died of child abuse each day in the country.

The US is one of the richest nations in the world, yet it has one of the highest rates of child poverty among developed countries. Nearly 12 million American children—approximately 1 in 6—live in poverty, 73 percent of whom are children of color. Across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which is made up of 38 countries, the US is consistently ranked as one of the worst in child poverty rates.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the percentage of children with an unemployed parent has reached historic high. According to the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, in April, 2020, 21.7 percent of American children had at least one unemployed parent, the highest rate observed since 1967.

In 2019, nearly 4.4 million American children did not have health insurance. The rates of uninsured children were especially high among Hispanic children, undocumented children, children living in the South, and children in families with lower incomes.

People would feel even more chilled when reading the following data released by the Children's Defense Fund in its report The State of America's Children® 2020. In 2017, 3,410 children and teens, enough to pack 170 classrooms, were killed with guns in America, which means nine children and teens were killed with guns each and every day—one every 2 hours and 34 minutes. Since 1963, 186,239 children and teens have been killed with guns on American soil—four times the number of US soldiers killed in the Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined.

It makes people wonder which the US values more: children's lives or guns?

Not only American children. For many migrant children, their US border journey ended up in nightmares. More than 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children are now in US custody, neglected in filthy and crowded detention camps, deprived of basic medical care, physically and mentally abused and seeing little chance of reuniting with their parents.

The US is the only UN member that hasn't ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, largely because some politicians claim that "American children and families are better served by constitutional democracy than international law" and US sovereignty should not be compromised.

Oddly enough, when it comes to children's rights protection, the US tilts towards state sovereignty rather than human rights it always champions. This is a textbook example of America's behavior of double standards and selective multilateralism.

The US often trumpets itself as a "Beacon of Human Rights", yet the way it treats its most vulnerable and valuable group-- the children, suggests just the opposite. The country gets blindsided by, or actually turns a blind eye to many of its human rights violations. Child abuse and neglect is always a stain on America.

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Global Times, China Daily etc.