The UN’s Rights Of The Child Calls To Obama
The Obama Administration has resurrected the debate over the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is pushing for the United States to finally join the treaty. Yet, while ratifying the treaty sounds like a great effort to protect children, it would instead offer the UN inroads to dictate to American parents how best to raise their kids. According to the US Constitution, treaties are binding laws that must be followed by judges, even if those treaties conflict with the laws of the individual states.
Except for the United States and war-torn Somalia, every single country in the world has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said Monday that the Obama Administration wants to find out “when and how it might be possible to join.”
Horrible things are done to children every day around the world. In Uganda last week, children marched through the streets of the capital to raise awareness about the existence of child sacrifice in the country and to urge the government to outlaw the practice. In South Africa, men are selling their younger sisters and nieces into prostitution, and in Afghanistan, 12-year-old girls are forced to marry grown men. And across the world, millions of children lack basic food, water, sanitation, medical and dental care and educational opportunities.
Obviously, the protection of the young and helpless should be of highest priority in any country. The United States has long appreciated the importance of defending children from violence and exploitation, and the US already has excellent laws in place to defend children. Even the poorest children in America can have access to food and medical care. And that’s the point. The US has no need to ratify an international treaty in order to protect its children. Not to mention that in South Asia and Africa, ratification hasn’t stopped children from exploitation.
Secretary of State Madeline Albright signed the UNCRC in 1995, but the US did not ratify the treaty, and for good reason. According to Article 6 of the US Constitution, international treaties are binding, and the UNCRC would officially supercede state laws. While the UNCRC might not change things much in lawless nations, US judges would be required to follow the dictates of all 54 articles of this international law.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is a nice idea. It declares that children have basic rights that should be recognized – like the rights to survival, to protection from harmful influences and abuse. The Convention has four core principles which, according to the UNICEF, are “non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.”
It’s perhaps that last one that most frightens US lawmakers and parents. What does “respect for the views of the child” mean and, since the treaty is a binding legal document, what would its ratification mean for parents’ rights in America? If a 10-year-old says, “I don’t want to go to church with my parents,” does he have the “right” to refuse? If a teen girl says, “I want to go to work as a prostitute in Las Vegas,” could her parents legally stop her? After all, prostitution is legal in Nevada, and the UN has been willing to promote the rights of prostitutes.
There is concern that the UN would attempt to dictate to US parents how to raise their kids. The UN agenda is not conservative and family-friendly. To get an idea of how the UN interprets the treaty, here are some of the recommendations that have been made to various countries:
To Austria: “Austrian Law and regulations do not provide a legal minimum age for medical counseling and treatment without parental consent. [The UN] is concerned that the requirement of a referral to the courts will dissuade children from seeking medical attention and be prejudicial to the best interests of the child.” [italics added]
To Barbados: “In spite of efforts to increase attention to early childhood education, the Committee remains concerned that the number of child-care centers is not enough to serve all children concerned. . . ”
To Macedonia: “promote adolescent health policies and strengthen reproductive health education and counseling services, including with regard to … pregnancy among girls and abortion.”
To the United Kingdom: “…the Committee is concerned that insufficient attention has been given to the right of the child to express his/her opinion, including in cases where parents in England and Wales have the possibility of withdrawing their children from parts of the sex education programmes in school. In this as in other decisions, including exclusion from school, the child is not systematically invited to express his/her opinion and those opinions many not be given due weight, as required under article 12 of the Convention.”
In many of the cases, the UN is promoting contraception, sex ed, and abortion as “rights” that minors have, while denying parents’ rights to decide what is appropriate for their children. The UN wants children to be able to get medical treatment without their parents’ consent, and considers child care centers better places for children than their own homes. (The UN has consistently urged countries to create more child care centers in the interest of “women’s rights” as well, while frowning on cultures that promote motherhood.)
The net result is that the state becomes the de facto parent, shouldering its way into the family and usurping the parents’ authority. Children need to be protected from abuse and starvation and exploitation, and they need to be able to receive a decent education, but the US can do many things to promote the welfare of children around the world without submitting itself to the United Nations.