Can there be any universal children's rights?: some considerations concerning relativity and enforcement

OUTPUT TYPE: Conference or seminar papers
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2002
TITLE AUTHOR(S): K.A.Bentley
KEYWORDS: CHILDREN'S RIGHTS, HUMAN RIGHTS
DEPARTMENT: Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)
Intranet: HSRC Library: shelf number 2513

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Abstract

This paper is intended for the purposes of discussion to raise questions, rather than present answers to the problem of the universality of children's rights. The paper considers the ideal definition of childhood implicit in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other domestic and international law documents, and questions whether or not this definition can have any universal purchase in light of vastly different conceptions of childhood both in South Africa and across the world. The paper seeks to make the distinction between fundamental rights that children have as human beings (non-derogable rights), and rights that they may be regarded as having in terms of their status as children by virtue of their age (derogable rights). It is the latter rights that are regarded as being most problematic in some universal sense. The paper then goes on to illustrate this by drawing on examples that pose challenges to the received conception of childhood underlying the CRC, and raises the question of whether the notion of children's rights should be rethought from a perspective of autonomy and obligation.