While the United States has not ratified the CRC, it signed the CRC on February 16, 1995,260 and
was more active in the drafting of the CRC than any other government.261 The United States
proposed text or amendments for thirty-eight of the CRC’s forty substantive articles, including
several regarding exploitation, abuse, and the rehabilitation and reintegration of victims.262
Despite the failure of the United States to ratify the CRC, the U.S. Supreme Court relied on the
near universal ratification of the CRC in gauging the weight of international opinion affirming the
Court’s decision effectively banning the juvenile death penalty in Roper v. Simmons.263
The CRC requires that countries take all appropriate measures to promote physical and
psychological restoration and social reintegration of a child victim of exploitation, abuse, or any
other form of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”264 Parties to the CRC must also take
appropriate measures to “protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or
abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual
abuse. . . .”265 While the CRC makes clear that parties are obligated to protect children from abuse
(such as child pornography), the Optional Protocol, to which the United States is a party, focuses
even more directly and specifically on the parties’ obligations to eliminate child pornography and
to ensure the full recovery and social reintegration of victims.
B. Multilateral Efforts to Provide Restoration to Victims
The Optional Protocol is the world’s most comprehensive treaty to focus on the
eradication of child pornography by banning the production, distribution, and possession of child
abuse images, requiring parties to provide restorative services, and requiring parties to allow
victims to receive compensation from their offenders.266 The Optional Protocol entered into force
on January 18, 2002, and the United States ratified the treaty on December 23, 2002.267 As of
today, 121 countries have signed the treaty, and 169 countries from all over the world have
ratified the treaty.268
When the United States ratified the Optional Protocol, it became obligated as a state party
to ensure that sexually exploited children, including child pornography victims, receive medical
and psychological services for their full reintegration into society.269 In fact, the United States
required no new legislation after it ratified the Optional Protocol, signaling that domestic law
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260 Convention on Rights of the Child Ratification Status, supra note 258. Article 18 of Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
requires a signatory of a treaty not to defeat the purpose of a treaty before ratification. Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties art.
18, May 23, 1969, 1155 U.N. T.S. 331. Similar to the CRC, the United States has signed but not ratified the Vienna Convention on the
Law of Treaties. However, the U.S. Department of State has recognized many of its provisions as customary international law. Maria
Frankowska, The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties Before United States Courts, 28 VA. J. INT’L L. 281, 298–307 (1988).
261 See generally Office of the U.N. High Comm’r for Human Rights, Legislative History of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
U.N. Doc. HR/PUB/07/1 (2007); Cynthia Price Cohen, Role of the United States in Drafting the Convention on the Rights of the
Child: Creating A New World For Children, 4 LOY. POVERTY L.J. 9, 12, 26–36 (1998).
262Q&A: The Convention on the Rights of the Child, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (Nov. 18, 2009),
263 See Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 575–77 (2005) (finding unconstitutional the imposition of the death penalty for juvenile
264 Convention on the Rights of the Child, supra note 257, at art. 39.
265 Id. at art. 19.
266 Optional Protocol, supra note 55.
267 Id.; Status of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and
Child Pornography, U.N. TREATY COLLECTION, https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11-
c&chapter=4&lang=en (last visited Feb. 1, 2015) [hereinafter Status of the Optional Protocol].
268 Status of the Optional Protocol, supra note 267. Nine countries (Cameroon, Fiji, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Liberia, Nauru, Solomon
Islands, and Zambia) have signed the treaty but not ratified it. Id. Whether these countries are parties to the Optional Protocol and
bound by its terms depends on whether their signatures were simple (requiring further state action such as ratification, acceptance, or
approval) or definitive (requiring no further state action to bind the state to the treaty). UNITED NATIONS, TREATY HANDBOOK 5–6
(2012), available at https://treaties.un.org/doc/source/publications/THB/English.pdf. The Optional Protocol requires ratification,
making signatures simple. Optional Protocol, supra note 55, at art. 13.