Children Notes

1. Notions of children
• Perceived to be miniature adults
• Perceived to be pure, angelic and nearest to God
• Puritans: Asserted that they were not only conceived in sin, but born in utter corruption. Without strict controls, they would get out of hand.

• Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
- Parents were deemed to have absolute rights over their children, where they would be
freed from their parents upon their death.

• John Locke (1632-1704)
- Viewed the human mind as a “tabula rasa” or “blank slate” at birth. With time, it would
be “tarnished” by experience.
- This view was present in the Age of Reason, where the hope that humankind could be
improved upon was perpetuated.
- Children, viewed as weak willed and lacking reason are best educated by being placed
in situations which discourage the manifestation of bad character traits and kept far
away from situations which encourage them.
- Parents decide on behalf of their children.
- Discipline is to be meted accordingly in the form of beatings to make children learn
their lesson.

• Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
- Believed children were born “naturally good”.
- They became evil and were corrupted by the family and poor education.
- Asserted in Emile: On Education (1792) that children need to be nurtured by
education in order to maintain their innocence and freedom.
- Wrote: “Everything is good as it leave the hands of the Author of things, everything
degenerates in the hands of man.”

• View of children as vicious , for example in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies

Children featured prominently in English Literature after 1790.

• The Romantics; especially Blake and Wordsworth wrote in praise of the original innocence of childhood.
- Children displayed a curiosity about Nature and enjoyed it for its beauty.
- Characterised by innate sensibility and imagination
- “Lost innocence” with adulthood

• Victorian age
- Children were seen as frail and vulnerable and exploited in order to expose and
highlight the particular inhumanities of the 19th century such as corruption and poverty.
- Charles Dickens was adept at portraying the child as a victim of a brutal environment

Do such notions of childhood exist in the present?
Generally, children are essentially playful, often happy and oblivious to their surroundings. As pillars of tomorrow’s world, is it imperative to take care of their well-being and protect their freedom? What implications would there be for the rest of the world if children know only suffering in their childhood? What benefits can society reap when it ensures the freedom and dignity of children?

2. Some perspectives on the rights of children
• Where there is a conflict of rights, if one person has the right, the other is absolutely denied the right. For example, if a child lacks a right, the parent has sole dominion of
the right over the child till it ceases with death.
• One can have all the rights normally possessed by an adult or none at all. If children are deemed as miniature adults, they would automatically be accorded rights.
• “People either have rights of self-determination or they do not.” Even if they possess welfare rights, they are entitled to certain forms of treatment, not that they are entitled to make important choices about how to lead their lives. Children lacking the rights of self-determination have no freedom to choose, and their own choices count for nothing.
Are the above three perspectives acceptable?
- From a moral or legal perspective, whether one is deemed capable or not depends on
the age of their being held responsible for their deeds. Where is the line between
childhood and adulthood?
- If children are deemed as immature, or lacking in reason and knowledge, would they
be given the same rights as adults?
-Should children’s rights be distinguished from those of adults?
3. A quick glance at some facts…(source: http://www.unicef.org)
 Total number of children: 2.2 billion. Children in poverty: over 1 billion.
 Children in developing countries without toilets at home: 1 in 3; without safe water: 1 in 5; and without health care: 1 in 7.
 Children under five who die of mostly preventable deaths each day: 29,158.
Total child deaths in 2003: 10.6 million.
 Life expectancy for a child born in Japan : 82. In Zambia, 33.
 Percentage of infants with low birth weight in Sudan: 31. In the Republic of Korea: 4.
 Children born in Canada in 2003: 319,000. Children killed in Rwanda in 90 days in 1994: 300,000.
 Proportion of child deaths killed in conflict since 1990: 45 per cent.
 Estimated rise in under-five death rate during “typical” five-year war: 13 per cent.
 Children in Belgium: 2 million. Children exploited in commercial sex industry: 2 million.
 Cost of producing a landmine: as low as US$3. Cost of clearing a landmine: up to US$1,000.
 Estimated new HIV infections in 2003: 5 million. Infections among under-25s: over 2.5 million.
 Number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS: 15 million. Of them, proportion who live in sub-Saharan Africa: 8 out of 10.
 Proportion of people with HIV/AIDS living in developing countries: over 90 per cent. Of them, proportion who need ARV treatment but do not have access: 93 per cent.
 Telephones per 100 people in Sweden : 162. In Bangladesh: 1
 Percentage of central government spending on health in industrialized countries: 15. In East Asia and the Pacific: 1 per cent.
 Global military spending 2003: $956 billion. Estimated additional annual cost for financing the MDGs: $40- $70 billion.
 Countries that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child: 192. Countries that have not: 2.

4. Children in the Global Context (some hits and misses)
+ Unprecedented global prosperity and unparalleled access to information

- But persistent poverty and widening disparities exist both between rich and poor
countries and within them
 3 billion people subsist on less than $2 a day and 1.2 billion-half of them children suffer absolute poverty, with less than $1 a day to survive on.
 According to a new report by Oxfam, 45 million children will die in the next decade due to rich countries’ miserliness..
 G7 countries (Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Britain, the United States, Canada) are more well-off but only 40 % is spent on poor countries.
 The debt ridden countries are serving their debts rather than on health services.
 The G7 countries have been urged to cancel all poor countries’ debt and double development aid to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reduce poverty.
What are the MDGs to be attained by 2015?
- Achieving universal primary education
- Halving the number of people living in hunger and on less than the equivalent of $1 a
day
- Reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate of children under five
- Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality rate
- Halve the spread of HIV and other deadly diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis

 Economic sanctions or coercive measures taken against countries or political leaders through the deliberate withdrawal or threat of withdrawal, of customary trade or financial relations compound poverty.
 Exists in the form of trade embargoes, restrictions on exports or imports, denial of foreign assistance, loans and investments and constraints on foreign assets and economic transactions.
 With shortage of food, medical supplies, deterioration of infrastructure essential for clean water, adequate sanitation and electrical power, children are most heavily impacted along with the elderly and the poor.

+ Following the World Summit for Children, stronger international partnerships have
been forged with successful action to reduce major childhood diseases
 Polio has been almost wiped out
 National immunization campaigns in the developing world has provided mass supplements on Vitamin A, reducing child deaths and cases of irreversible blindness.
 With more access to iodized salt, there has been dramatic progress in preventing iodine deficiency disorders, which could have led to mental retardation.
 Yet, 30 million children remain unimmunized because of lack of vaccines, poor or inaccessible health services or lack of information and misinformation on where immunization is carried out.
 In Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, immunization rates declined dramatically with political and economic upheaval as a result of independence from the Soviet Union. Thus, more than 2 million children die unnecessarily each year.
- but unimaginable devastation by HIV/AIDS, especially in sub-Saharan Africa
 Sub-Saharan Africa has just 10% of the world’s population, but 70% of the world’s people with HIV/AIDs. 9 out of 10 children affected are African.
 Millions have been orphaned with the loss of parents to the disease, making them more prone to exploitation.
 The global picture: by end 2002, 42 million people were living with HIV/ AIDS, with more than 3 million children under 15.
 The disease is now increasingly affecting the young, girls and women and those illiterate and poor. In the most affected countries, the ratio is five or six girls (aged 15 to 19) for every boy infected in that age group.
 Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, fuelled significantly by injecting drug use.
 Every day, almost 2,000 babies are infected with HIV during pregnancy, at birth or through breastfeeding.
 Girl’s education can be an effective tool in the prevention of HIV/ AIDS as it could help reduce the spread of the disease by helping females become independent, delay marriage and comprehend the measures taken to prevent the disease.

+ Some gains for women, including greater legal recognition of their rights in many
countries
 The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has become the second most ratified international convention.
 There are also more women in the labour force.

- but continuing gender inequity and gender discrimination.
 Nearly 120 million are still out of school, of which 53% are girls.
 Gender based violence still happens daily, such as sex-selective abortion, female infanticide; female genital mutilation; “honour killings”, domestic violence and abuse ; sexual slavery, prostitution and trafficking; and the use of rape as a weapon of war.
 About 1 million children are exploited yearly in the multi-billion dollar sex industry.
 Commercial sexual abuse of children is fuelled by a demand for the sexual tourism.
Child pornography
 Differing legislative standards in countries
- The actual age for legal participation varies with countries setting different age
requirements for hardcore vs softcore pornography.
- Production and sale of child pornography is generally illegal in most developed
countries. Some countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and The
Netherlands outlaw mere possession. In Russia, there is no special legislation on
distribution of pornography and child porn.
- Some prohibit all depictions of nudity of minors, regardless of whether the minor is
depicted in an erotic pose or engaging in a sex act.
- Others disallow written works that explicitly describe sexual activities of minors.
- Simulated child pornography such as paintings, drawings, or computer- generated
images, has recently been included in some countries’ definition of child porn.
- In most countries, materials dealing with underage sex are usually exempt from
prosecution when deemed to have artistic merit.
- The internet has made it difficult to stop dissemination of some images which
constitutes legal in some jurisdictions, and deemed as child pornography in others.
For example, in Great Britain, females as young as 16 can pose topless for
mainstream newspapers and adult magazines. Yet for them to pose for American
magazines, they have to be at least 18.

With the differing standards, how can children be adequately protected? Does the existence of the Internet compound the situation?

 Arguments for less restrictions on child pornography
- Simulated child pornography does not involve real children.
- The non-commercial trade and sharing of child porn can serve as a substitute for new
materials and bring about a decrease in production.
- Pedophiles are given an outlet such that the risk of committing abuse is lowered.
- Liberalistion of conventional porn in many countries shows that the availability of porn
reduces the number of sex crimes.

 Arguments against child pornography
- The trade in child porn precipitates a greater proliferation of the child porn market.
- Pedophilia might increase and lower one’s threshold to engage in sex with a child.
- Might encourage child molesters
- May give the impression that the depicted pornographic acts are normal.
-- Legalising simulated child pornography could make prosecution of true child
pornography much harder.
Child trafficking
 Worldwide, an estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked each year.
-Moreover, families are often unaware of its dangers, believing that their children might have the chance for a better life outside their own country.
-Girls as young as 13 (mainly from Asia and Eastern Europe) are trafficked as ‘mail- order brides’. Up to 10,000 women and girls from poorer neighbouring countries have been lured into commercial sex establishments in one South-East Asian nation.

+ Increasing recognition of children’s rights and attention to violations of these rights
 Non-governmental Organisations and the media have been increasingly active in highlighting special protection issues.
 Children’s rights are now priorities on the global agenda and individual countries’ political agenda.

Some milestones…
1989- Convention on the Rights of the Child
1990- World Summit for Children
• 77 heads of state and government ad 88 other senior delegates met and put
children’s interests as top priority
• Leaders committed themselves to a World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and a Plan of Action
• 27 specific goals that included their survival, health, nutrition, education and protection and to be to be attained by 2000

- but there exists the proliferating of armed conflicts that disproportionately killed and
injured children, the persistence of other forms of violence against children and
continued widespread exploitation of their bodies and labour.

 Conflicts killed more than 2 million children in the 1990s and left many millions disabled and psychologically scarred with displacement, insecurity, destruction of social infrastructure and judicial systems

 Trade in arms and illicit drugs worth an estimated $800 billion and $400 billion yearly result in increased proliferation of conflicts and violence.



Landmines
 More than 10000 children are killed or maimed by landmines every year.
 Children are more vulnerable because they may not be able to recognize or be able to read warning signs. Some landmines are hidden and difficult to spot. Besides, children are innately curious and likely to pick up strange objects.
 Survivors of mines tend to be concentrated among the poor who are exposed when cultivating their fields, herding their animals or searching for firewood. Those who labour in fields and forests and who fetch water are most at risk.
 In Cambodia, civilians use mines and other devices to fish, to guard property sometimes for domestic violence.
 Children may be so accustomed to them that they become immune to dangers.
Some even use mine casings for wheels for toy trucks.
 Children who are maimed would place their families in greater debt. Landmines
prevent rural people from growing food or earning a living.

Child Soldiers
 At any one time over 300,000 child soldiers, some as young as eight, are exploited in armed conflicts in more than 30 countries around the world.
• More than 2 million children are estimated to have died as a direct result of armed conflict over the last decade. At least 6 million children have been seriously injured or permanently disabled.
• In May 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Raised the minimum age for conscription from 15 to 18 and forbids anyone under 18 from participating in hostilities.

Small Arms and Light Weapons
 Development of light, inexpensive weapons has impacted the number of children recruited as child soldiers and trafficking of arms and drugs.
• They main and kill thousands of children year. Children witnessed or suffered direct attacks by light weapons in their homes, schools and committees.

Child Labour
 According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 246 million are engaged in exploitative labour.
• Three quarters work in hazardous environments such as mines or factories, or with dangerous substances such as chemicals and agricultural pesticides.
• Some 5.7 million of these children work under slavery of bonded labour.

Depravation of primary caregivers
 Primary caregivers and the family forms children’s first source of protection.
• Their overall well-being and development is compromised with temporary or permanent depravation which comes about when they are separated during war, orphaned by HIV/AIDS, or placed in hospitals, orphanages, psychiatric units, prisons and detention centres.
• Sometimes this increases a child’s risk of exposure to violence, physical abuse and even death.
• Survivors often face malnutrition, illness, physical and mental trauma, and stunted cognitive and emotional development.

Child abduction
• Dramatic increase in child abductions and child kidnappings by custodial and non- custodial parents.
• Political and legislation differences make child abduction cases difficult to solve.
• Countries have adopted a treaty to expedite the return of children wrongfully removed to their home country.

 The Hague Convention
Under the treaty, each state which has subscribed establishes a ‘Central Authority” to
serve as a liaison with the other Contracting States.
- The parent files the application with the Central Authority (the child’s home country or
where the child is located)
- The Central Authority has to locate, protect and secure the voluntary return of the
child.
- If a judicial proceeding is initiated, the court must act quickly.

+ New opportunities for popular participation created by the spread of democratic
governance and increased decentralization, and a greater role in development for civil
society, NGOS ad the private sector
• Move towards political democratization; for example, Eritrea and Namibia achieved independence.
• Many countries have initiated programmes of decentralization and made efforts to empower local authorities.
- but continued poor environmental management, placing more children at risk of
disease and natural disasters.
 environmental degradation has been aggravated by rapid growth of cities, poor management of urbanization, unregulated urbanization, unregulated industrialization, wasteful consumption, neglect of urban poverty and population displacement.

Why have the above goals for the World Summit for Children not been met?
-Needed investments for children were not made.
-Developing countries spend only 12% to 14 % of their national budgets to basic social services.
-Donors allocate only 10 to 11% of aid budgets.

3.5 Solutions for children’s protection and civil rights
• Role of the family
- Strengthen programmes to support families with child rearing responsibilities
- Ensure the development of comprehensive national programmes for the prevention,
detection and treatment of neglect and physical or sexual abuse of children
- Ensure that all children deprived of a family environment have access to appropriate
forms of alternative care where their rights are fully safeguarded.

• Civil rights and freedom
- Laws to protect children from discrimination, especially in access to education in the
acquisition of citizenship and nationality
- Laws to care for children separated from parents, regulating and intercountry adoption
- Actions to counter harmful traditional practices, including female genital mutilation
(FGM) and early and non-consensual marriages
- New laws to prohibit child prostitution, child trafficking and child pornography
- Labour laws for minimum age for employment , prohibiting the worst forms of child
labour.
- Specialised juvenile justice systems, setting minimum ages for criminal responsibility
and ensuring the separation of juveniles from adults in detention centres.
- Strengthen strategies and mechanisms to ensure children’s participation in decision
making for to their family and society
- Promote awareness of child rights among children and adults, and foster changes in
attitudes and values that undermine respect for the rights of children
--Better collaboration between law-enforcement agencies and judicial authorities
- Continued efforts to build broad based partnerships at the local, national, regional and
international levels

In the local context, comprehensive laws have been implemented to protect the child.
Children and Young Persons Act (revised 2001)
http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/non_version/cgi-bin/cgi_getdata.pl?actno=2001-REVED-38&...

What are the limitations of these solutions?


3.6 A different set of challenges

Childhood obesity
• Possibility of a global epidemic of obesity which threatens to eradicate other improvements in children’s health and safety for the past 30 years.
• In America:
- According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. about 15.6% of American
children between 12 and 19 were obese in 2002 , from 6.1% in 1974.
How does this compare with statistics for violent crime and illegal drug use?
- 44.5% of every 1000 people between 12 and 15 were likely to be victims of violent
crime in 2002, drown from 77.5 % per 1000 in 1974.
- 39.3% of 12th graders used illegal drugs; down from 53.8% in 1978.

• In Scotland:
- Scots children are among the fattest in the developed world, according to Scottish
Executive figures. Only Italy and Malta have a higher number of overweight youngsters.
- This compares with England and Wales and in America, where 1 in 7 15 year olds are
obese.

• The International Obesity Task Force (IOFT) seeks to increase the awareness of the condition as a serious medical one with huge economic costs and to come with policies and strategies to deal with it.

• In Singapore, the ‘Trim and Fit’ programme has helped to improve fitness and reduce obesity with increased exercise and monitored eating habits.

Yet will the global epidemic be effectively curbed?

Children and stress
Some possible factors:
• Rise in expectations to perform
• Difficulties forming good relationships with peers,
• Higher trend of children having thoughts on suicide.
• Arguments with parents
• Loss of parents
• Divorce
• Break-ups
• Poor grades
• Boredom
• Eating disorders
• Depression


In conclusion,
 Are all children locally and globally in a dire situation?
 Do children learn any lessons while being mired in adversity?
 Are some so well taken care of and protected that they have become spoilt ?
 Are the laws in place inadequate?


Question for discussion
Discuss the plight of children in the world today. (SRJC PE99 Q1)

“Not enough to protection is given to children in many parts of the world.” Discuss. (AJC PE97 Q9)

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