The right to express yourself
Your rights under the UNCRC
UNCRC Article 13: It’s your right to express yourself freely and share what you think, unless it harms or offends other people.
Your rights under Irish law
- Under Article 40 of the Irish Constitution, it’s your right to express yourself freely. However, there is a limit to this right as you are not entitled to say things that might provoke others to violence.
- Under the Irish Constitution, it’s your right to protest peacefully. This is one of your fundamental rights.
Did you know?
- While people have a right to express their opinions and ideas, this right is limited to protect the rights and reputations of others. This means that you can say what you like, but you have a responsibility not to harm others with what you say, or to incite others to hatred because of what you say or write.
- The right to express yourself freely is also about being able to look for, get and share information and ideas.
- Hate speech is when you say or write something that causes violence, or incites hatred against certain people, for example, because of their race, nationality, sexual orientation or religion. This is against the law in Ireland under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 says this.
- There is no law in Ireland that about getting tattoos and piercings. This means that there is no minimum legal age at which you can get a tattoo or a piercing. Many tattoo and piercing shops have their own policy and they often ask anyone under the age of 18 for parental consent.
- Young people often express their ideas online, through social media. According to a 2015 report called Net Children Go Mobile, in Ireland:
- More than a third of 13-16 year olds use instant messaging (e.g. Skype, WhatsApp) every day.
- 9 in 10 of all 15-16 year olds have a social networking profile. Almost 40% of 11-12 year olds have a social networking profile even though most social networking services have an age restriction of 13.
- 8 out of 10 children who use social networking use Facebook as their main profile.
- 42% of 9-16 year olds report that Instagram is the media platform they most often use. This is followed by YouTube (34%).
- No uniform days can be a way of being able to express yourself in school. Many student councils campaign for more relaxed approaches to uniforms and dress, for example, that girls be allowed wear trousers if they choose and that boys be allowed dye their hair if girls can.
- In some countries, people are not free to express themselves or to search for information that they need. Censorship is a practice that some Governments do whereby they examine things like books/articles or films and they take out parts they think are offensive or immoral. In some countries, the internet is blocked and there is only one news channel on TV.
- The Committee to protect journalists annual report 2015 has said that Eritrea and North Korea are the top two most censored countries in the world.
Hear your right – read by Carla Ryan
Tá sé de cheart agat fáil amach faoi rudaí agus do smaointe a roinnt le daoine eile, trí bheith ag caint, ag líníocht, ag scríobh nó ar aon bhealach eile, ach amháin má dhéanann sé sin dochar do dhaoine eile nó má mhaslaíonn sé iAd.
Éist le do chearta – léite ag Luke Ó Murchú
What children and young people are saying
- “I think that the right to express yourself is important because you need to show who you are” – Christian (12)
“I think it’s very important that children and teenagers have the right to express themselves in any way and not have their talents or anything not developed because of where they’re from or where they live, what school they go to or how much money they have or anything because I believe that everyone has a talent in them, something they can bring to the world.” – Ellen (17)
“If someone told me, ‘Carla, you can’t sing anymore, because, you’re a girl or because of where you’re from.’ I’d be heartbroken because it’s what I want to do and because I can try and bring to the world and I think it’s so important especially for teenagers when they’ve all these emotions and they’re starting to grow up and see the world, a lot of people, need to like express themselves, whether there’d be songwriting or painting or dancing or whatever, I think it’s so important to be able to express yourself.” – Carla (17)
“We feel that everyone should be able to express their personality without being judged.”
“Self-expression is really important because it can make people feel better about themselves.”
- Ellen and Carla perform their song “Shield” with the help of the Dunboyne Senior Primary School Choir
Children and young people share their views on children’s participation rights
Find out more
- Cartoons for Children’s Rights – A short cartoon about children’s right to express themselves freely, made for Unicef’s Cartoons for Children’s Rights initiative
- Youth Information Centre – There are youth information centres around the country. To see where your nearest one is, check out here and here.
- Local Libraries – Find out where your local library is.
Explore More – Resource materials for Teachers & Educators
- Child US – ‘Preschool Feeling Themes’. Activities for preschool children to explore and express feelings.
- EQUITAS – ‘Your Smile is Contagious’. An activity for 6-8 year olds about emotions. In Play It Fair! Human Rights Education Toolkit for Children (2009), p.16.
- United Nations – ‘Words that Wound’. An activity for young people on the right to freedom of expression and associated responsibilities. In Teaching Human Rights: Practical Activities for Primary and Secondary Schools (2004), pp.64-65.
- British Library – ‘My Digital Rights’. This page includes several activities to support young people to explore different dimensions to the right to freedom of expression online (2015).
- Safer Internet Day – A video and activities aimed at understanding the balance between hate speech with freedom of expression online.