Posted by: bklunk | April 14, 2007

Pay Attention, This Could Be on the Test

A couple of thoughts here: (1) Some commentators question whether children can have rights. If a person is not competent to legally assert a right on her own behalf it may not make sense to speak about that person having rights. (2) Even so, we do have agreements on the rights of the child, therefore discussion about (1) may be largely academic. (2a) Even so, a child is a person who will presumably have rights upon maturity and therefore is morally significant. (3) Nevertheless, children are almost by definition less able to claim and defend their own rights. This means that others (adults) are particularly responsible to protect the rights of children or to protect the child so that she can become an adult capable of claiming, defending, and enjoying rights. 

Human Rights: Three Basic Ideas & Child Soldiers « International Politics

Today in class we were discussing the issue of human rights. During this discussion we learned about the three basic ideas surrounding the human rights. These issues are:

1. Human Right are “natural”: We have human rights because we are human. We do not have human rights because of a specific region we live in, religion we uphold or ethnicity we share.

2. Human Rights are equal: Everyone is entitled to the same rights. Men don’t get more than women, white don’t get more than blacks, and a Christian does not get more than a Muslim.

3. Human Rights are universal: They apply to everyone, regardless of their age, sex, gender, race, religious affiliation etc.

Now, looking at these three basic issues got me to thinking about the problems surrounding child soldiers in today’s world. Obviously because of the fact that child soldiers exist, these three basic ideas are not being upheld. Children are humans and thus should be given the same rights as other human beings because it is “natural”. However, instead, these children are stripped from their homes and forced into environments that adults (generally speaking) get to choose for themselves. Also, in regards to the second basic issue here children should be among the “equal” as well. While in many countries children are not seen as equals to when standing next to an adult, they are still entitled to the same basic human rights as an adult under this idea. They are the same as the adults and there is no reason why an adult should have more rights as a human being than a child. Finally, under the idea of human rights being “universal” and applying to all. The important word here is all. It doesn’t say “adults” or even “some” the word is “all”. Because of this it is evident that children need to be given the same freedoms and ability to make choices as not only those adults near them, but as those children in other countries as well. There is no reason, under these three basic ideas, that a child in DRC should have a lesser amount of right to an education than a child in the U.S.

Looking at the three basic ideas of human rights, it’s really a shame to have such a great set of ideas that aren’t followed. What is the point of having these ideas and standards if they are only upheld by a portion of the human population.

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  1. I think it’s important to distinguish basic human rights from legal rights. Human rights are universal, natural (whatever that means), and inalienable. Legal rights are internal claims of duty or responsibility applicable only within a given legal system.

    It seems sensible to talk about children as lacking legal rights, but that tends to distort the meaning of rights. Within the U.S. legal system, a child has legal rights beginning at viability (another vague term). The fact that childern are legally incompetent to assert their legal rights does not cause them to disappear. The parent/guardian of a child acts as an agent in representing the legal rights of her child.

    If human rights claims are to be taken seriously, then they must extend to children. Often, human rights claims are not made on one’s own behalf. If a parent (or George Clooney) makes a human rights claim on behalf of a child, then that child can be said to bear rights.

  2. I definately agree. Human rights and legal rights are two seperate issues. Just because a child is unable to have certain “legal rights” because they are underaged and viewed as “incompetent” of doing so, does not mean that they can be ignored when it comes to human rights. We discussed how human rights were “natural” meaning that we had them purely because we’re human, not for any other reason. And if children are excluded from these rights, who is the person deciding that a child isn’t human?

  3. All of these children have these human rights, the problem is that they aren’t being respected by the people that are supposed to be looking out for them. It is hard to distinguish between legal and human rights when dealing with children in these countries,as stated in the comments above. Is is also true though that because they are vulnerable to their elders and to authority still at these young ages, this should be the first priority for the people that are supposed to care for them. The problem is that they are seen as a military asset and not as a person or human being, thus deserving the basic human rights that we enjoy in other parts of the world. It is simply sad that these children are born into this situation, and forced into military situations that they are not prepared for. In most cases I doubt they have any idea what they are fighting for. This trend will most likely, and unfortunately, not change until the mindset of the country changes with respect to their young people.

  4. What is truly sad about child soilders, is they don’t really know what they are getting into. Many of these children are, in one way or another, forced into warfare at exrteamly young ages. Many children have been orphaned due to epidemics such as AIDS, or lost a parent in the same war they end up fighting in. Eventually, enough adults are dead that these little kids have to find a way to survive on their own.

    Children have the same rights as everyone else, but in environments where there are no adults to guide them who is suppose to teach them? Of course there are organizations devoted to the plight of children, but they can only do so much. This is especially true when the government is allowing for children to participate in war. Even the bodies such as the UN have limited power, since they cannot “invade” a country to protect people if the government doesn’t want them there.

    The problem of child soilders is indicative of the greater probelm of poverty. If a child is so poor there only option is to kill to be taken care of, that is a major problem. Explicit or not, a child should have the right to be a child and not have to choose being a soilder at the age of 8 in order to stay alive.

  5. I think it’s very interesting to discuss the human rights of children, especially because so often their human rights are violated (i.e. situation of child soldiers in Africa, children being strapped to bombs in the Middle East). I think that this discussion can be carried in a different direction as well; the question of human rights and legal rights also pertains to people who are mentally incapacitated, those who are unable to care for themselves or are dependent on life support. Mentally disabled people should intrinsically be entitled to their human rights, but their legal rights are frequently violated because they are unable to speak for themselves. So how is one to make a decision for them? Who should make those decisions? I believe that legal rights should be a reflection of human rights, that legal rights should be created to protect human rights. Since not all people are able to directly express their will through legal rights, human rights should be the basis upon which legal rights of the person are created so that they, too, are the same for all humans (regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, belief system, or mental capacity).

  6. […] Pay Attention, This Could Be on the Test […]

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