Wednesday, June 24, 2009

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The UN Convention of the Rights of a Child is big news right now. Only the US and Somalia has yet to enter into this treaty, and the Obama administration is pushing for its ratification. Ratifying this treaty is NOT in the US's best interest. I know that a lot of people are thinking it is just us nutty homeschoolers and Christians who are against it, but I say we all should be against it. The treaty threatens to take away the parental rights of everyone, regardless of your beliefs in schooling, religion, parenting, etc. I believe that every parent, and future parent, should look closely at this treaty and ask yourself questions such as the ones I've asked below. Questions like:

Would you be willing to take your child to religious gatherings contrary to your personal beliefs? As an atheist, are you willing to take your child to a Christian church if that's what your child wants? As a Muslim, are you willing to take your child to a Jewish synagogue? As a Christian, are you willing to take your child to a Masonic Temple? This treaty gives your child the right to follow any religious beliefs they wish to, and requires that the "competent authorities" ensure that you provide for them to do so.

My comments/questions are in purple. The black text is taken directly from the treaty document. I did not include and comment on every article of the convention.

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",

I can agree with this part. I especially like that it protects the child BEFORE birth as well as after. In my mind, this would ensure that those who murder a pregnant mom would be prosecuted for both the murders of the woman and her unborn child. Further, it would outlaw all abortions.

Article 3
    1. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

    My question for this provision is: "Who decides what is the best interests of the child?" What happens if what I think is in the best interest of my child is different from what the social welfare institution thinks is in the best interest of my child? Who's opinion wins?

    2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.

    3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.

    Who are the competent authorities who are establishing these standards? Who is determining what constitutes a competent authority? Is a competent authority someone who is liberal, conservative, socialist, capitalist, Muslim, Christian, Atheist? To what kind of people are we giving the authority to decide just how we can and cannot raise our children?

Article 4

    States Parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention. With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, States Parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international co-operation.

    What does appropriate mean in this situation? Does this mean that our government can legislate away our rights to parent our children as we determine best, and take punitive measures against us if we don't follow these new laws?

Article 9

    1. States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. Such determination may be necessary in a particular case such as one involving abuse or neglect of the child by the parents, or one where the parents are living separately and a decision must be made as to the child's place of residence.

    This provision is a HUGE can of worms. Again, who is deciding what makes someone a competent authority and who is deciding what, exactly, is the child's best interest?

    2. In any proceedings pursuant to paragraph 1 of the present article, all interested parties shall be given an opportunity to participate in the proceedings and make their views known.

    It's nice that we are allowed to tell the competent authorities our opinion. The child, regardless of age, is also allowed to tell them his opinion.

    3. States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child's best interests.

    The first section sounds good: the child is allowed to maintain contact with the parents unless those competent authorities decide it isn't a good idea. Imagine your child being taken away from you. Imagine your child traumatized by being taken away from you and wants to at least see and talk to you sometimes. Imagine the case worker saying you can't see each other because she thinks it isn't in the child's best interest per her definition.

Article 12
    1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

    I can see a child, who is angry with their parents for requiring them to do reasonable chores, being given the right to express views such as their parents being too mean/harsh/punitive/etc., and those views being given due weight in court.

Article 13

    1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.

    Do you think a young child should have the right to receive information of all kinds? What if your 12 year old wants information about how to use birth control, how to satisfy the other gender sexually, and how to find a wide variety of sexual partners? What if your angry, depressed, and suicidal teen wants information on how to procure a gun?

Article 14

1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

What if you are an atheist parent? Will you be willing to take your young child to the church of his choice every week? What if his choice of religion is a well-known cult? Christian parents: are you willing to take and drop your child off at a Masonic, Hindu, or Buddhist Temple? Do you think an 8 year old has enough life experience to make these kinds of decisions? Once this treaty is passed, your child has a right to his own religion, and you must allow them to pursue it, regardless of your beliefs.

Article 16

1. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.

What if you suspect your child of using drugs? Does his right of privacy prevent you from searching his room or backpack for the drugs?

Article 17

States Parties recognize the important function performed by the mass media and shall ensure that the child has access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources, especially those aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health. To this end, States Parties shall:

(a) Encourage the mass media to disseminate information and material of social and cultural benefit to the child and in accordance with the spirit of article 29;

Who is deciding what information is beneficial for your child? Do you trust mass media to provide beneficial information to your child?

(e) Encourage the development of appropriate guidelines for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being, bearing in mind the provisions of articles 13 and 18.

Who is deciding what information is injurious to a child's well-being? What if you consider the information to be injurious to your child but they decide it is beneficial?

Article 19

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

States parties shall protect the children from harm done by their parents. Who decides what physical or mental violence is? What injury or abuse is? What neglect is? Is spanking violence? Is use of time outs negligence or maltreatment?


Article 28

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:

(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;

(e) Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.

How will this affect homeschooling in our country? We have already seen this be used against homeschooling in Germany, and it is being currently being used against homeschoolers in Britain.


Article 29

1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

(a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.

This would be great if public schools were forced to do this. Homeschooling has already proven superior in this aspect for most homeschooled children. However, I can see a competent authority arguing for public school placement using this provision to say that the parents' beliefs are not allowing for the development of the child's personality.

(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;

Would this require the schools to develop the child's Christian values? Could this be used, as it has been in Germany, to outlaw homeschooling? In Germany, the national values are that the child be taught to become good citizens, as defined by the government, and it was decided that this cannot be accomplished properly if the child is not in public school.

(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;

In our country, preparing the child for tolerance means teaching that everyone is morally right except Christians.

Article 31

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

Will reasonable chores be considered interfering with the child's rights to rest and leisure?

Article 37

States Parties shall ensure that:

(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offenses committed by persons below eighteen years of age;

There are two parts to this to comment on. The first sentence could limit our ability to discipline our kids. Can you imagine a nation full of teens and adults who have never been disciplined because a competent authority decided that spanking, time outs, restrictions, taking away an ipod, or whatever constitutes cruel or degrading treatment? The second sentence means that a 17 year old can go on a killing spree but not be charged in accordance to his deeds. They are old enough to take automatic weapons into a school and kill a bunch of teachers and classmates, but not old enough to be tried, convicted, and punished as an adult.

(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

What IS the shortest appropriate period of detention for a 17 year old who has killed a dozen or two of his classmates?

Article 38

2. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.

But your 15, 16, or 17 year old can take direct part in hostilities.

3. States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, States Parties shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest.

Would you agree with the recruitment of your 15 year old into the armed forces, especially during a time of war/conflict when they have a likely chance of being sent into the conflict?

Article 40

(a) The establishment of a minimum age below which children shall be presumed not to have the capacity to infringe the penal law;

What will this minimum age?

Article 51

1. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall receive and circulate to all States the text of reservations made by States at the time of ratification or accession.

Our country is allowed to ratify this treaty while stating that they have reservations about certain portions of it.

2. A reservation incompatible with the object and purpose of the present Convention shall not be permitted.

However, the reservations are not permitted if they are deemed incompatible with the convention. Meaning, if our country ratifies this treaty with reservations, our reservations mean nothing. We still have to follow the entire thing, even if we disagree with it.

Article 52

A State Party may denounce the present Convention by written notification to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Denunciation becomes effective one year after the date of receipt of the notification by the Secretary-General.

Hey, if our country ratifies the treaty and changes it's mind, it can...but it doesn't go into affect for a year. This would give them time to do something to prevent our pulling out of the treaty.

If you are at all concerned about any of these issues, contact your senators and urge them to oppose ratification of this treaty. You can find their information here.



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14 Comments:

Jennifer said...

I do not like this one bit. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I believe that this will be used against homeschoolers. The government has gained too much control over our daily lives. It needs to be stopped. Time to start using our constitution once again.

Mommy to One said...

My question is: what is the supposed reason for needing this? Do we have a multitude of abused children whom the current Child Protective Service is not dealing with? I mean, for measures this extreme, you'd think the majority of children are being abused beyond belief. Yes, there are certainly alterior motives. This isn't about protecting children.

ProntoLessons said...

Great article -

It's tough enough to be vigilent in protecting our interests here at home...now we have this to contend with.

I believe Sweden is already moving to make homeschooling illegal, citing its interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

And coincidentally, UK just announced prior to Sweden's announcement that its moving to increase homeschooling regulations.

With Education Secretary Duncan's remarks about wanting to officially compare U.S. education against international benchmarks, it worries me that homeschooling could get caught up in this, resulting in more regulations on homeschooling here.

ProntoLesson said...

I don't usally post twice in a row, but I just saw this - it's an article in the Examiner stating that homeschooling interests are flooding the phone lines of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., expressing their dissatisfaction with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Good to know that people are looking out for us.

Click the link for the article - http://www.examiner.com/x-10042-Des-Moines-Homeschooling-Examiner~y2009m6d24-UN-ambassadors-phone-lines-crash-due-to-overwhelming-homeschool-lobby

The Prince of Centraxis said...

I am a home schooling parent and believe that most of your objections to these agreements are really objections to harmless legalese.
Children's rights need to be protected in the wider world, where some countries still have child slave labour, for heaven's sake!
In many places marriage is condoned before puberty!
So let's not throw out the babies with the bathwater. What's your opinion on other UN treaties, like the declaration of human rights?

JoAnn said...

Prince,

I agree, those issues should be dealt with. I think the best way to deal with them is directly and specifically rather than using a sweeping, broad document that could be used to control just about anything. Let them make a treaty specifically about child slave labor!

The other issue is that this specific treaty is ALWAYS BEING USED AGAINST HOMESCHOOLERS in Germany and England. It has already been proven that it is not just harmless legalese.

Justin Livi said...

The convention deals with basic rights of a child, rights such as the right to life, basic freedoms such the right to not be forced into sexual slavery, etc. The convention is international, meaning the U.S. isn't passing any legislation, rather, the U.S. signing it would would signify U.S. leaders agreeing within the international community that they would not violate the rights of any children anywhere in the world. The convention is designed to protect children from being forced into workhouses and used as child-soldiers in places such Sierra Leone. I think the U.S. has been reluctant to sign it up until now, because U.S. corporate interests profit daily from underpaid child-labor overseas. Signing could potentially jeopardize some of those interests. I think that the U.S. signing could potentially greatly improve the lives of children all over the world.

Justin Livi said...

Sorry to post twice, but I'm curious about JoAnn's post. Do you have any evidence to support your claim?

JoAnn said...

Justin,
I would need to know which claim you are asking about. I did not make any specific claims, but rather asked a bunch of questions. What if what I believe is best for my child is not the same as what the "competent authority" believes? Does that mean I lose the right to choose for my own family and child? Yes, I believe it does.

This convention is already being used as a vehicle for just that in some European countries. It was used to seize, by gunpoint, children of a homeschooling family in Germany. Homeschooling is illegal there as the government has determined that socialized public school is in the best interests of the child and government. The key words in that last sentence is "best interest of the child". Who decides what is in the child's best interest? In Germany, it is the government.

It is currently threatening homeschoolers in the UK. They are working towards creating laws that give the authorities rights to access the home, talk to the children, determine if the child wants to homeschool or go to public school (so the state can force the parents to return the child to public school), choose curriculum that the parent must teach, etc. Does the state's authorities know better than the parent what is in the child's best interests? Have they raised that child since birth? Have they spent time determining what the child's learning style is and researched dozens of curriculum, trying several of them, to find out which one works the best for the child? Of course not! So, how is it that the state knows what's in the best interest of the child better than the parent? They don't. Yet, the UK is working towards passing these laws anyway. They don't care about the best interest of the child; they only care in maintaining control over the child's upbringing.

If they can use the convention in this manner over there, what's to stop them from doing it here...especially when you realize that the US Constitution makes international treaties (ie. this convention)the supreme law of the land. This means if the convention is ratified, it would automatically override all state laws pertaining to family and children, transferring jurisdiction to Congress, which is required to follow the UN mandates. At that point, if the UN were to determine that public school is in the best interest of the child, our Congress would be obligated to enforce the public schooling of all children. If the UN determines that ____ discipline technique is against the best interests of the child, our Congress would be obligated to ensure it wasn't used here. Unless there is an amendment to our Constitution, this Convention and the "competent authorities" who decide how it is to be implemented, would be making all of our child and family laws for us.

Jenni O. said...

Please excuse my late comment but I just stumbled upon this blog. There is something that needs to be cleared up... the Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international agreement which means that in order for there to be a "violation" the government needs to be the one doing the violating... not a parent. An individual cannot be tried on a human rights violation. If anything, this convention gives parents more power in protecting their children from abuses. The real reasons the US has signed but not ratified the Convention are the facts that we still allow children to sign up for war service, we still have states that allow for the death penalty for children and we do not provide adequate healthcare to all children- these are the big ones.

Anonymous said...

http://childrightscampaign.org/crcindex.php?sNav=getinformed_snav.php&sDat=faqs_dat.php

i think you just need more research. read this.

if this treaty is being used against homeschoolers, that is the fault of the nation's government, itself, not the treaty. Each government that has ratified, has done so with a set of provisions that they have agreed to. the governments of germany and england, therefore, have set their own laws of homeschooling based on their own interests.

a treaty, by definition, cannot usurp our constitution.

Anonymous said...

I just reviewed the link http://childrightscampaign.org/crcindex.php?sNav=getinformed_snav.php&sDat=faqs_dat.php

Truth #1 to Myth #1 states that the SCOTUS ruled that a treaty cannot be used to supersede the US Constitution. While this is true, in theory, with the number of progressives on the supreme court and the number of times they refer to laws of other nations in their rulings, I believe this is a slippery slope.

Truth #2 to Myth #1. The last sentence states, "RUDs do not legally exempt the U.S. from adhering to a provision." This statement proves the Myth to be fact.

Truth #4 to Myth #1. If this convention has no teeth for the U.N. to inforce. What is the reason to sign it? Whether you are for it or against it, it makes no sense to sign as it has no teeth.

All Truths to Myth #3 again no teeth. What is the benefit of signing it?

Truth #2 to Myth #3 states, "Article 5 states that Governments should respect the rights..." should is the key word here. The difference between should and shall is HUGE.

This is as far as I am going for now. My biggest argument against signing it is that it does absolutely nothing, except the give the ability, over time, to erode United States sovereignty.

Anonymous said...

You are completely distorting and misunderstanding the entire document. Obviously you also do not know that all ratifications tend to come with "reservations" and changes proposed based on existing domestic legislation and cultural issues. But if you and your readers really think this is a conspiracy, and if you seriously want to remain solely in the company of SOMALIA (which has only not ratified because it does not have a functioning government) by not agreeing to the rights of children not to be exploited, abused and neglected, well . . . it scares me you all have children, but explains why you don't want people seeing how you raise them. I say this as a child protection professional who has worked in the US, and countries at war all over the world for over 20 years. This country's arrogance as claiming it is "pro-freedom" is an embarrassment when we cannot join the international community on stating fundamental belief in children's rights.

I thank the Prince of Centrax for the sensibility. And for JoAnn, the U.S. has ratified the ILO Convention 180 on Exploitative Child Labor. The CRC was the initial impetus for focusing on child rights 20 years ago. Subsequently, as it became the most widely ratified convention in history (except for the US and Somalia), specific conventions and protocols to the CRC have been developed to further deal with particular issues. But with the large number of Americans who do not want to be prevented from using corporal punishment, and paranoid homeschoolers who think they will be stopped (why is a mystery-- there is no basis in the CRC for eliminating homeschooling, unless it involves abuse or neglect), a statement of overall rights for children is blocked. Ironic, ain't it?

JoAnn said...

Unfortunately, anonymous, several countries ARE in fact limiting parental rights, including the right to educate our children, and claiming they have the right to do so because of this convention. Unfortunately, our fears are founded in the very real precedents that have already occurred. This isn't guesses as to what can happen; they are based on what has already happened.