Thursday, March 12, 2009

Boxer: Child Rights in the US

It appears that the new administration in the US has been inspiring some change of pace thinking on some old issues. Senator Barbara Boxer (D. Ca) is pushing the congress to finally vote on ratifying the UN Convention that has gotten away from the US for a number of a years. The ever-needlessly controversial UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Since this comes from Fox News, we know it is going to have a conservative slant. The title of this article, "Boxer Seeks to Ratify a Treaty that may Erode US Rights" could just as well be stated "Boxer Seeks to Ratify a Treaty to Ensure Child Rights." Since that is the core reason why the United States continues to be the only country with a standing government to not have ratified it.

Fears that it will erode US autonomy are unfounded, seeing as no other country has had its right to internal sovereignty violated in the 20-year history of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has nothing to do with how the US values its children, and everything to do with the all-too-typical US pattern of pathological paranoia over everything that could serve to make the world a more decent place. The low regard that many groups within the US have toward children only escalates the tension.

What are some of the real reasons the US hasn't ratified this convention though? Critics claim that the convention will override internal US authority and thereby "strip rights" from individual states, and even more absurdly, from individual parents:

"Whether you ground your kids for smoking marijuana, whether you take them to church, whether you let them go to junior prom, all of those things . . . will be the government's decision," said Michael Farris, president of "It will affect every parent who's told their children to do the dishes."

It does no such thing. Nowhere in the actual UN convention is there a clause that states how parents are to authorize their children do dishes. The document talks about rights children have as human beings, including the right to life, identity, education, opinion expression and to have them acted upon when appropriate, to be protected from abuse or exploitation, privacy (as such their lives may not be subjected to excessive interference), to have legal representation, and protected from capital punishment.

Furthermore, the Convention outlines parental rights as follows: "Parents have the right to exercise parental responsibilities." The failure to accept children as human beings in the US is not a threat to parenthood. It is an unfortunate side effect of the last vestiges of adult-centric thinking and typical US stubbornness.

The autonomy of the United States, nor any other country, is not threatened by this convention. There is no reason why the US can't ratify it but offer a "right to hold reservation against any part that conflicts with the rights of US states and territories." The Middle East in particular has ratified it with the expressed intention of reserving any part of it that conflicts with their Sharia Law practices. There are numerous other ratifying nations who have voiced "reservations" and even outright "objections" to particular and general areas where they feel doing such would violate certain autonomous rights within their country.

If there are any objections about this UN Convention, which generally holds true for all UN Conventions of this sort, it's that territorial sovereignty is too much a limitation on its powers, rather than it being a limitation on governments' rights. This is the only way it can be done, still remain effective, and not be too limiting on UN member sovereignty. The alarmist calls of "threats" are not justified. Consider how the Convention is being addressed in Canada.

The United States has already ratified two optional protocols of the convention, concerning child soldiers and child pornography. It's more than about time to ratify that children have basic human rights.

Luckily, though the US doesn't officially back the Convention yet, there is a silver lining:’s important to point out that the government’s attitude, and the high prevalence of physical disciplinary measures in American schools and homes, conceals the fact that many of the world’s most ardent campaigners for children’s rights are American citizens.

There is a Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which is supported by partners from 29 academic institutions and 173 organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association. Many religious groups support it as well.

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