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Children's Rights (or Justice)

Page history last edited by Leangthai Theng 2 years, 2 months ago


I.  Introduction


What are Children? Children are human beings in their infancy. Some children are really young people. Children obviously have a moral significance as human beings. For the reason that they are human, there are some things that should not be done to them. Children, on the other hand, are distinct from adults, and it seems logical to assume that there are some things children are not allowed to do that adults are permitted to do (Archard & William, 2018). So, how about their rights, are they considered as right-holder like adults? Every day, children around the world face violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect. Millions of people have been forced to evacuate their homes due to conflict and natural catastrophes, putting them at risk of migration and displacement. In many nations, commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking, child labor, and child marriage are all issues. If we are to protect at-risk children and adolescents from harm and guarantee that they develop to their full potential, we must enforce their rights (Bhabha, 2019). Therefore, this research paper will explore all of these relevant questions and issues, focusing on the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the debate between two theories on children's rights, some historical philosophers' ideas that we have discussed in class, some issues that children have faced, and some recommendations to combat child abuse and exploitation.


II.  Major Scholarly Debates 



     1. The Conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 


The International Convention on the Rights of the Child, promulgated by the United Nations on November 20, 1989, was the founding text of a new concept: Children's Rights. Is it possible to call this concept ‘Revolutionary? Perhaps it is too early to respond to such a query. However, the Convention might be characterized as innovative, participatory, egalitarian, and universal. It is first and foremost innovative because it completely transforms our perception of the child, moving away from the concept of paternalistic protection of children and toward a veritable status of the child: from being a child-object (whose property was owned by adults), he becomes a child-subject with certain rights. It is the birth of a new child. The Convention is participative in the sense that Article 12 grants the child the right to express himself: a child who is capable of forming his or her own opinions has the right to voice those opinions in all matters affecting him, opinions that must be given due weight in accordance with the child's age and maturity. The Convention is egalitarian in the sense that its basic premise is that all children, without exception, should have equal access to all rights (Article 2 chapter 1). Because 191 of 193 states have signed on to this binding wording, the Convention takes on a universal character. It's outstanding. This passion should be praised not just for the enthusiasm it shows for the new concept of the child as a subject of rights, but also for the scope of its application. Indeed, child's rights have become a new legal reality, impossible to ignore, thanks to the backing of nearly all States Parties (Zermatten, 2001).


     2.  Two competing theories 


There are two opposing theories on children's rights, each with its own point of view. In will theory, Children are denied the status of right-holder due to a focus on their incapacities, but in Interest theory's shift from self-determination to interest protection and ignores the limits that a child's developing capacities bring (Cowden, 2012). According to the will theory, a right is the protected exercise of choice. To have a right, in particular, is to have the authority to enforce or waive the duty of which the right is the correlative. On the other hand, in accordance to the interest theory, a right is the protection of an interest that is important enough to impose on others specific responsibilities, the fulfillment of which permits the right-holder to enjoy the interest in question. It is natural to believe that each theory is better suited to particular types of rights. The will theory corresponds to active rights to do things (to talk, to associate with people), whereas the interest theory corresponds to passive rights to enjoy or not suffer things (to receive health care, not to be tortured). One claimed flaw of the will theory in this situation is that it excludes some humans from the category of right-holders. This is because, while all humans, and maybe many types of non-humans such as animals, have interests that should be protected, not all humans have the ability to make decisions. According to the will theory, children, along with the severely mentally impaired and the comatose, are not entitled to rights (Archard & William, 2018). In addition, the interest theory states that a right entails the preservation of sufficiently significant interest as well as the imposition of obligations on others, the fulfillment of which assures that the rights-holder can enjoy that interest. Children are entitled to rights regardless of their ability to exercise such rights. Therefore, we should uphold the interest theory. Furthermore, there are four fundamental principles that should be considered when taking a children's rights approach to decisional privacy, which are rooted in the formulation and understanding of children's rights found in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The first principle is that children are subjects with rights, not just objects of concern, with interests that differ from those of their parents and other family members. The second principle is that children must be able to exercise autonomy in exercising their rights in accordance with their evolving capacities. The third principle, which follows from the second, is that due to children's relative vulnerability and immaturity, parents must provide adequate direction and guidance to their children in exercising their rights. The fourth principle is that children must have a meaningful voice in the matter that affects their life (Dimopoulos, 2021).



     3. Connecting to the historical philosophers’ ideas


Hobbes wrote in the 17th century that children are only protected because they can help their fathers. The relationship between parent and child is viewed as mutually beneficial. According to Hobbes, the father-child connection is rooted in fear, and children are in a position of great dependence. He believes that rational citizens who enter into a contract with the sovereign for their own protection must obey the sovereign's directives in exchange for this protection. Children lack the capacity to enter into contracts with other members of society or to comprehend the implications of such commitments. As a result, children have no natural rights and no rights under the social contract. Instead, children must acknowledge their fathers as sovereigns, and fathers wield the power of life and death over their children. Later in the same century, John Locke maintained that freedom is the liberty to act according to one's own free will, based on reason. Children, according to Locke, are in a state of temporary ignorance and irrationality.  However, this state is temporary, and will later make way for a reason and the freedom to exert their wills. Children are initially under the authority of their parents until they reach the age of independence. This transient state of inequality exists in the child's best interests. In sharp contrast to Hobbes, Locke refuses to acknowledge that parents have complete influence over their children. He recognizes that children, like adults, have natural rights that must be protected. On the other hand, John Stuart Mill advocated a different sort of paternalism. Mill's libertarian views did not extend to his views on children, it appears that he promotes society's ultimate sovereignty over children. Mill expressly argues that his idea of the ultimate worth of free will does not apply to children. Paternalism is appropriate in the case of children because they are incapable of selecting what is best for themselves and society, and parents must do so and act on their behalf (Kruger, n.d).


This, to me, appears to show that these three historical philosophers were in support of the will theory since children lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves. None of these philosophers would have taken the perspective of children in choosing their own best interests seriously. They have delegated all decision-making authority to their parents, particularly the fathers. Parents, on the other hand, do not always make the best decisions for their children. For example, some parents refuse to send their children to school, particularly their daughters, preferring instead to stay at home and perform chores. Furthermore, some children have been subjected to domestic abuse in various forms by their biological parents, resulting in trauma and a horrific childhood that has a long-term impact on their lives. As a result, the interest theory is the most appropriate theory for protecting children from abuse and exploitation. Moreover, Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift also agree with the interest theory and argue that even if children lack the capacities for an agency that are important in adults, they surely possess some interests that are important enough to warrant holding others under relevant duties (Harry Brighouse & Swift, 2014).


 III. The Major issues children facing in Southeast Asia and an advocate organization



     1.The major issues


Traditional forms of child sexual exploitation, such as child marriage and human trafficking, remain a problem, according to the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Southeast Asia, a study of the phenomenon in 11 Southeast Asian countries. However, the situation has deteriorated in recent years as a result of a lack of understanding about the issue, growing regional tourism, and the rise and expansion of the internet.  While traditional tourist locations such as Thailand and the Philippines continue to pose a risk to children due to low-cost travel and accommodation, additional countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Vietnam have emerged as attractive hotspots for child sex offenders. The research also emphasizes the growing danger posed by increased Internet access, which endangers youngsters and puts them at higher risk of abuse and exploitation. According to the report, the production of online child sexual abuse content in the Philippines currently produces up to $1 billion in annual revenue. Some countries in the region have been identified as major hosts of images of child sexual abuse, and some CD shops in Lao PDR openly sell child sexual abuse material. There are still significant gaps in the region's awareness of child sexual exploitation. More investigation is required. Offending patterns differ between travelers from different nations. Asian men, for example, are more prone to sexually assault young girls, including virgins. Western perpetrators are more likely to approach young boys for sexual exploitation than Asian people. Child sex offenders are increasingly looking for youngsters in volunteer or professional settings. Finding work or volunteer opportunities at schools, orphanages, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is one of them. In Cebu City, one of the poorest locations in the Philippines, 25 percent of all sex workers on the streets is sexually exploited adolescents. According to a survey of street working boys in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, 26% of respondents admitted to engaging in sexual activities with adults in exchange for money, food, or other gains and benefits. Temporary marriages are becoming more common in Indonesia. Indonesian females are being forced to marry. These open the door for foreign men, primarily from the Middle East, to sexually exploit youngsters. To meet demand, child trafficking is also on the rise. Girls and boys aged 12 and under are sent to Thailand to perform commercial sex work. Some parents are alleged to have sold their children straight into the sex industry, whilst in other cases, youngsters are originally recruited to work in the agricultural sector, as domestic workers, or in other businesses, but are then trafficked into the sex industry (ECPAT, 2018).



     2. An advocate organization


Plan International is a humanitarian and development organization that was founded since 1937. Its scope of work includes some main areas as followings. They have supported the child in the early childhood. Multiple obstacles prohibit children, particularly girls, from getting a good start in life and thriving. Inequalities and conventional traditions can result in young children not receiving the necessary care and support. The organization is trying to ensure that disadvantaged and excluded children, particularly girls, grow up feeling respected, cared for, and free of discrimination. All children should have the opportunity to study, develop completely, gain self-confidence, and interact with others. In terms of education, they advocate for free, equitable access to high-quality education for all children, from early childhood to secondary school. They engage with children, their families, communities, wider society, and governments, as well as a campaign at the local and international levels, to ensure that all children have access to education. Plan International is also dedicated to safeguarding children from violence and collaborating with communities, schools, and governments that can play an active role in their protection. They help keep children safe from abuse by giving training on child rights, positive discipline, and parenting practices to families and communities. They engage with girls, boys, partners, and communities to address the root causes of gender-based violence. Regarding the sex health and rights, the organization tries to achieve gender equality, and ensure that girls and young women understand their right to sexual and reproductive health and have control over their lives and bodies ("Plan International," 2021).



IV. What needs to be done to ensure the rights of children in Southeast Asia


Based on the recommendation from UNICEF, Southeast Asian nations (or ASEAN) should continue to strengthen regional systems and cross-border collaboration in order to realize children's rights, such as protecting children from human trafficking, forced/arranged child marriage, and female genital mutilation/cutting; supporting the rights of children affected by migration and displacement, and responding to climate crises and disasters regionally. This includes enhancing engagement and partnerships with civil society in order to broaden children's opportunities. Moreover, ASEAN should continue to collaborate closely with UNICEF and other UN and intergovernmental organizations to establish and/or reinforce regional instruments, develop and/or reinforce policy, and co-design planning documents that support member states' international child rights commitments. ASEAN member nations should focus on ensuring that all children's rights are respected, with special emphasis paid to those that are systematically marginalized. Children from extremely poor families, children from remote rural areas, children from urban informal settlements, ethnolinguistic minority groups, indigenous peoples, unaccompanied or separated children, migrants, refugees, undocumented and stateless populations, children with disabilities, LGBTI children, and children affected and/or prone to humanitarian situations are among those affected and/or prone to humanitarian situations. Disparities in access to excellent services continue to be a problem, putting millions of children in worse circumstances than their peers. To resolve inequities, it is necessary to undertake budget studies and produce costed policies and implementation strategies (UNICEF, 2019). Furthermore, I believe that the penalties for sexual offenders are insufficiently severe. It is true, some countries have harsh penalties for perpetrators; for example, in Thailand, if a crime is committed against a minor, the penalty ranges from four to twenty years in prison, depending on the severity of the act, and if the crime was committed with the threat of a weapon, the offender faces a life sentence("Sex Crimes in Thailand," 2004). To some extent, though, I believe the death sentence should be considered. This is because it is a very serious matter, as the victims' lives have been devastated and everything turns into darkness in their world after those perpetrators made an action. They are unable to survive without support. Furthermore, some perpetrators have even killed victims after engaging in sexual activity with them, which is even worse.


V. Conclusion


To summarize, regardless of their ability to exercise those rights, children have rights. Everyone, including their family, relatives, and the society in which they live, should be aware of this. Furthermore, the traditional belief that children are under the control of their parents and that their parents have the legal authority to act on their behalf should be modified and changed. And I continue to believe that each country needs better mechanisms and regulations to be enforced in order to stop (or at least reduce) sexual abuse and exploitation in every possible way, as well as severe punishment for offenders. Children have long been regarded as our most valuable resource. They are our future. But, if we don’t adequately safeguard them, how can they become our future and provide prosperity to our country?




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Bhabha, Jacqueline. (2019). Child Protection: Children's Rights in Theory and Practice. Retrieved from https://www.humanitarianlibrary.org/resource/child-protection-childrens-rights-theory-and-practice


Cowden, Mhairi. (2012). Capacity, claims and children's rights. Contemporary Political Theory, 11, 362-380. doi:https://doi.org/10.1057/cpt.2011.43


Dimopoulos, Georgina. (2021). A theory of children's decisional privacy. Legal Studies, 41(3), 430-453. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/lst.2021.16


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UNICEF. (2019). Realizing the Rights of Every Child in ASEAN 10 Recommendations. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/eap/sites/unicef.org.eap/files/2019-11/Children%20in%20ASEAN%20summary.pdf


Zermatten, Jean. (2001). Children's Rights from Theory to Practice. Retrieved from https://www.childsrights.org/documents/publications/wr/2001-4.pdf


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