INTL254 Introduction to International Human Rights
Professor Nadya Nedelsky
reaction essays prepared by students AM, NA
This reading reviews the development of the formation of universal children’s rights. The main document in question is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified by 191 states excluding only Somalia and the United States. The convention includes articles concerning a variety of rights among them the preservation of identity, the right to express opinions, prevention of abuse, and access to health care. One problem raised concerns the idea of “childhood,” and children’s role in society. Some object to the CRC’s definition of the responsibility of the child, saying that assuming children should not work at an early is a Western notion. The argument explains in the West industrialization allowed children to leave the workforce and remain “protected” by their parents.
One problem with creating a set of universal laws is that in many developing countries children must work to survive, thus is it the role of the government to step in and support the family? If not the government’s job, then whose is it? Two things not resolved in the convention are corporal punishment and abortion. How can these controversial issues be addressed? Should they be decided by another body? How do deal with cultural relativism in these cases?
The text also reviews several cases of children’s rights, such as the Michael Faye case in Singapore regarding the use of corporal punishment for crimes. As in Kenya, should corporal punishment be allowed if it is closely controlled by the state? Clearly there exist problems of enforcement in this area, and if rules are not being followed what is the next step? Should universal laws then come into play? Is the banning of corporal punishment a violation of privacy and religious rights of the parents?
How should problems of corporal punishment be addressed in schools and in the home?
What are the duties and responsibilities of parents in protecting the rights of the child? What are the duties of the society?
Should non-government organizations play a role in the drafting and enactment of international convention?
How do you deal with children who must work to survive?