During the past two years the world has suddenly woken up to the need to protect the next generation – from the rest of us humans.
It seems that we are passing on all our aspirational and spiritual paradigms without any thought for our children’s rights. They too have the right to choose – without undue pressure.
Yesterday, at The World Conference for Children in Mumbai, participants heard a powerful plea from US ex-president Clinton.
“After two decades of rampant religious fanaticism and the right-wing attitudes that are now so prevalent in America, we have to take unusual steps to protect the world’s children from being automatically imbued with the same radical outlooks as their parents,” said Clinton.
“Fringe groups in Christian and Muslim faiths leave children with no choice to make their own decisions about right and wrong. This amounts to nothing less than child-abuse.”
The conference concludes tomorrow, but the UN has already mobilized enormous support for governments to ensure that all children are isolated from ‘bigoted views’, have the freedom to be schooled in a wide-range of belief systems, and to make their own choices without undue parental influence.
Sweden and Belgium have already passed new laws that make it illegal for parents to ‘indoctrinate’ their children.
If time in Mumbai permits, producers and retailers will likely feel similar pressure to limit the marketing of ‘lifestyle’ products to children.
What’s under pressure here is the ‘One Right Way’ philosophy that has provided such easy comfort in the past.
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
Just how far can parent’s rights over their children go?
During the 20th century extensive legislative changes began to protect children’s rights in unprecedented ways.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 November 1989. The Convention has been ratified by 191 out of 193 countries territories and states. The two countries which have yet to ratify the Convention are Somalia and the United States of America.
Under the terms of the UNCRC, a ‘child’ is defined as every human being below the age of 18. The key provisions of the Convention are that:
* All rights apply to all children without exception or discrimination of any kind
* The best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children
* States have an obligation to ensure as far as possible every child’s survival and development
* Children’s views must be taken into account in all matters affecting them
The Convention consists of 54 articles:
Article 1 Everyone under 18 years of age has all the rights in the Convention.
Article 2 The Convention applies to everyone whatever their race, religion, abilities, whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from.
Article 3 All organizations concerned with children should work toward what is best for each child.
Article 4 Governments should work to make these rights available to all children.
Article 5 Governments should respect the rights and responsibilities of families to direct and guide their children so that, as they grow, they learn to use their rights properly.
Article 6 All children have the right to life. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.
Article 7 All children have the right to a legally registered name, the right to a nationality and the right to know and, as far as possible, to be cared for by their parents.
Article 8 Governments should respect children’s right to a name, a nationality and family ties.
Article 9 Children should not be separated from their parents unless it is for their own good, for example if a parent is mistreating or neglecting a child. Children whose parents have separated have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this might harm the child.
Article 10 Families who live in different countries should be allowed to move between those countries so that parents and children can stay in contact or get back together as a family.
Article 11 Governments should take steps to stop children being taken out of their own country illegally.
Article 12 Children have the right to say what they think should happen, when adults are making decisions that affect them, and to have their opinions taken into account.
Article 13 Children have the right to get and share information as long as the information is not damaging to them or to others.
Article 14 Children have the right to think and believe what they want and to practice their religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights. Parents should guide their children on these matters.
Article 15 Children have the right to meet together and to join organizations, as long as this does not stop other people from enjoying their rights.
Article 16 Children have the right to privacy. The law should protect them from attacks against their way of life, their good name, their families and their homes.
Article 17 Children have the right to reliable information from the mass media. Television, radio, and newspapers should provide information that children can understand, and should not promote materials that could harm children.
Article 18 Both parents share responsibility for bringing up their children, and should always consider what is best for the child. Governments should help parents by providing services to support them, especially if both parents work.
Article 19 Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for, and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents or anyone else who looks after them.
Article 20 Children who cannot be looked after by their own families must be looked after properly, by people who respect their religion, culture and language.
Article 21 When children are adopted the first concern must be what is best for them. The same rules should apply whether the children are adopted in the country where they were born or taken to live in another country.
Article 22 Children who come into a country as refugees should have the same rights as children born in that country.
Article 23 Children who have any kind of disability should have special care and support so they can live full and independent lives.
Article 24 Children have the right to good quality health care and to clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so that they will stay healthy. Rich countries should help poorer countries achieve this.
Article 25 Children who are looked after by their local authority rather than their parents should have their situation reviewed regularly.
Article 26 The Government should provide extra money for the children of families in need.
Article 27 Children have a right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and mental needs. The Government should help families who cannot afford to provide this.
Article 28 Children have a right to an education. Discipline in schools should respect children’s human dignity. Primary education should be free. Wealthy countries should help poorer countries achieve this.
Article 29 Education should develop each child’s personality and talents to the full. It should encourage children to respect their parents, their own and other cultures.
Article 30 Children have a right to learn and use the language and customs of their families, whether these are shared by the majority of the people in the country they live in or not.
Article 31 All children have a right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of activities.
Article 32 The Government should protect children from work that is dangerous or might harm their health or their education.
Article 33 The Government should provide ways of protecting children from dangerous drugs.
Article 34 The Government should protect children from sexual abuse.
Article 35 The Government should make sure that children are not abducted or sold.
Article 36 Children should be protected from any activities that could harm their development.
Article 37 Children who break the law should not be treated cruelly. They should not be put in prison with adults and should be able to keep contact with their families.
Article 38 Governments should not allow children under 15 to join the army. Children in war zones should receive special protection.
Article 39 Children who have been neglected or abused should receive special help to restore their self-respect.
Article 40 Children who are accused of breaking the law should receive legal help. Prison sentences for children should only be used for the most serious offences.
Article 41 If the laws of a particular country protect children better than the articles of the Convention, then those laws should stay.
Article 42 The Government should make the Convention known to all parents and children.
Articles 43-54 are about how adults and governments should work together to make sure all children get all their rights.
Almost all countries have laws that govern the regulation of advertising and the promotion of products to children. Advertising practitioners are constantly pushing these boundaries on behalf of their clients’ bottom line.
Many countries already prohibit ‘religious indoctrination’ but permit ‘religious education’. They may expose students to all religious views, but may not impose any particular view. By 2015 we may have learned to tell the difference.