Monday, October 15, 2012

Children's Rights Referendum: There are as many “expert” opinions on child-rearing as there are experts

Kathy Sinnott, in an important series of articles on the Children's Referendum writes;
There  are as many “expert” opinions on child-rearing as there are experts. But suppose one expert had the power to decide how all children must be raised.
The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child makes the State that single expert.
Since 1993 this convention has been, illegally, the basis of Irish law and policy on children.
It transfers to the State, however, the primary rights of parents and it grants to children a new set of “freedoms” that trump the better judgment of parents.
We need to know what is in this convention if we want to grasp exactly what is at stake in the coming “children’s rights” referendum.
From the very beginning of the convention parents are sidelined in favour of the State. The State is to ensure that children are protected from parents and their beliefs.
The convention has two over-arching principles: (a) everything must be “in the best interest of the child” and (b) the State alone decides what is best for any child in any situation.
Article 9 allows the State, through judical process, to even confiscate children.
Certainly children need to be removed from danger, and the Irish Consitution is clear that where parents fail the State must step in.
But the Convention allows the State to take a child from good and able parents simply because it considers the child’s “best interests” lie elsewhere. 
In other words, all parents are subject to State supervision while any action or decision of the State or its agents is considered automatically to be in the child’s best interest.
If “best interest” applied only to the basics of child welfare, how children are fed, clothed and sheltered, it would be intrusive enough.
But the “freedoms” created by this Convention put parents on a collision course with the State.
1. Freedom of expression entitles children, to an extent determined by the State, to be part of every decision affecting them (Art. 12).
This “right” opens the way for the State to exploit children in order to challenge and even change the decisions of parents.
2. Freedom of information gives children the right to “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers…through any other media of the child’s choice” (Art. 12).
This leaves parents helpless to protect their children from a predatory and profit seeking environment.
It is the State, not parents in their own homes, which decides any limits on this “right”.
3. The Convention guarantees a child “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” (Art. 14).
This “freedom” undermines the right of parents to pass on their religious faith and their moral values to their children. It could see the State taking action against parents who try to pass on the faith to their children.
And what happens, for example, if a child gets involved with a cult?
4. Freedom of association. Responsible parents vet the people who have access to their children. Yet this convention tells children they have a right to associate with anyone they choose (Art. 15).
Here again proper care for their children can get parents into serious trouble.
5. The child’s right to privacy finally and fully displaces parents from their role as parents, removing them from the “private” world of their children.
This “freedom” bans some of the most important tasks of responsible parenthood: monitoring and disciplining (Art. 16). 
The right to privacy will be familiar to many for the way it was used to legalise contraception and abortion in other jurisdictions.
The potential for parents to be excluded from such key areas of the children’s lives emerges later when the convention directs the State to develop family planning services for children!
The Irish Constitution guarantees responsible parents support without interference. The logic of children’s rights is interference without support.