Monday, November 19, 2007

Convention on the Rights of the Child

UNICEF is celebrating the 18th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Some portions of the preamble are:

Recalling that, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance,

Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community,

Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding,

Considering that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity,

Bearing in mind that the need to extend particular care to the child has been stated in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924 and in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly on 20 November 1959 and recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (in particular in articles 23 and 24), in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (in particular in article 10) and in the statutes and relevant instruments of specialized agencies and international organizations concerned with the welfare of children, '

Bearing in mind that, as indicated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth",

Recalling the provisions of the Declaration on Social and Legal Principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, with Special Reference to Foster Placement and Adoption Nationally and Internationally; the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (The Beijing Rules) ; and the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict,

Recognizing that, in all countries in the world, there are children living in exceptionally difficult conditions, and that such children need special consideration,

Taking due account of the importance of the traditions and cultural values of each people for the protection and harmonious development of the child,

Recognizing the importance of international co-operation for improving the living conditions of children in every country, in particular in the developing countries,

I had a chance to handle a juvenile case, a child charged with a crime. Our society has determined that a child at the age of fourteen should be held criminally responsible. Rather an arbitrary age, because really most children at that age still are not fully understanding the nature and consequences of their actions. We all were children and we did many seemingly innocent things that sometimes ended up badly... What should be the concerns of the law enforcement when handling a child in such a situation? Are we more concerned with punishment than rehabilitation? We have many student shootings at schools done by students, teenagers. So, there are valid concerns on the side of the law enforcement. But as a society don't we have a responsibility to cure the causes of these problems, rather than punish these kids and send them to the juvenile hall?

In addition, it is true that generally the family is the best place for a child. However, that is not true in some circumstances. There are parents who basically have no social skills and have no idea how to raise children. They are uneducated and abusive. They suffer from serious problems themselves, ranging from psychiatric to social. More likely than not, they are the very cause of their children's problems. Please, do not become parents when your life is a mess and you are not able to control it... Also do not become parents unless you have the full commitment that you will sacrifice yourself for the well-being of your child... If you are not capable of understanding this, do not burden the society with your failed heritage!

We, as a society have a duty to view the child criminal holistically... First, what kind of behavior can be classified as criminal. Second, what were the causes of that behavior. Third, how can we ensure that the child recovers from this psychological loss and enters into the society as a full member without paying the unacceptable price of departure...

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