Report from America: The Committee of Ten
by Terence C. Harrison
The signing of the United Nations Rights of the Child Convention by the United States was reported in issue 2 (September/October 1995) of this magazine. To date, the U.S. has not yet ratified the treaty, but things have moved rapidly in other parts of the world.
The UN Committee of Ten, designed to monitor progress of the charter in signatory nations, has been very active. This will be seen in the following information supplied and here reprinted by kind permission of the National Center for Home Education, P.O. Box 125, Paeonian Springs, Virginia 22129, U.S.A.. It provides a revealing analysis of the Committee's findings and recommendations.
IntroductionIn accordance with Section 44 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, each country which ratifies the Convention must report to the U.N. 'Committee of Ten' on measures they are taking to comply with the Treaty. This committee consists of ten representatives appointed by the U.N. who are responsible for monitoring compliance of all signatory countries. After reviewing these reports, the Committee of Ten informs each country of any violations of the Convention which exist in its current laws and lists recommendations for changing their laws to better implement the Convention.
The Committee is opposed to the corporal punishment of children across the board. Every report has some reference to corporal punishment, variously referred to as 'spanking,' 'child abuse,' and 'lack of respect for the child's physical integrity.' In some reports, the Committee uses language such as, 'The Committee recommends that awareness-raising and educational measures be undertaken to prevent child abuse and the physical punishment of children' (e.g. Summary of France). In other reports, the Committee is more explicit: 'The Committee recommends that the physical punishment of children in the home be prohibited' (e.g. Summary of the United Kingdom). More-developed nations are encouraged to adopt educational programs to 'sensitise' the population to the principles of the Convention (e.g. Summary of Canada).
The Committee wants schools to change their curricula to incorporate the principles of the Convention. It is worth noting that there is no distinction made between government or private schools in regard to this recommendation (e.g. Norway). The Committee also recommends that teaching methods be changed in order to reflect the 'spirit and philosophy of the Convention' (e.g. Summary of the United Kingdom). The Committee singles out Great Britain for allowing parents to remove their children from certain sex education classes, alleging that it violates the child's 'right of expression.' The Committee criticises Britain for allowing parents to 'exclude their children from school' - a thinly-veiled reference to home schooling.
The common 'violations' the Committee commonly found in other nations could easily be found in the U.S. In order to satisfy the Committee's demands, many rights traditionally enjoyed by parents in the U.S. would have to be taken away. More than simply superfluous, the Convention is at odds with the very foundations of American family law, which is rooted in Constitutional, Common Law, and Biblical traditions. Moreover, a fundamental premise of a free society is that citizens have a right to live under laws passed by duly elected representatives, not unaccountable, supranational bureaucrats. The U.N. Convention and the Committee of Ten would be clear threats to the sovereignty and autonomy of the United States as a free republic.
A Summary of the U.N. Report on the United KingdomThe Committee considered the United Kingdom Report on January 24-25, 1995
The U.N. Committee expressed concern that the United Kingdom does not have a specific 'mechanism' designed to oversee the implementation of the Convention (Concluding Observation: United Kingdom, Section 8). The Committee also believes that 'insufficient expenditure is allocated to the social sector both within the State party and within the context of international development aid' (Section 9).
The United Kingdom is criticised by the Committee because the 'health status' of the children of ethnic minorities and socio-economic groups is apparently not the same as those of other ethnic groups of citizens (Section 13).
The Committee is 'concerned' that children are denied their freedom of expression because their parents have the right to prohibit them from attending sex education classes in school. The Committee went on to say that 'In this, as in other decisions, including exclusion from school, the child is not systematically invited to express his/her opinion and those opinions may not be given due weight, as required under article 12 of the Convention' (Section 14). This section is particularly dangerous for home schoolers. The phrase 'exclusion from school' could be used against home schoolers if their 'schools' are not recognised by the Committee.
The Committee is 'disturbed' with Great Britain's laws that allow for reasonable chastisement within the home. The Committee is worried that many parents will interpret what is 'reasonable' in an arbitrary fashion. Thus, this legislation is deemed incompatible with the provisions and principles of the Convention (Section 16). The Committee also expresses concern that private schools are still permitted to administer corporal punishment. Legislation to prohibit this practice is wanted by the Committee (Section 26).
The Committee would like to see the U.N. Convention included in the training curriculum of professionals who work with children (Section 26). It also recommends that teachers modify their teaching methods to conform with the 'spirit and philosophy of the Convention, and that the Convention be incorporated within the school curriculum' (Section 32).
The Committee recommends that measures be taken to train parents in their responsibilities towards the rights of their children (Section 30) and that the physical punishment of children in the home be prohibited in light of the articles in the Convention which protect the child's 'physical integrity' (Section 31).
It will be seen from the foregoing that the UN Child Rights treaty is no idle threat to families. Never before has such a highly-centralised, concerted effort been made to control the upbringing of children. It is good that some nations have sought to make reservations to the charter. Such reserve, however, will hardly prevent the UN from continuing to press for full implementation of the Convention.
The National Center for Home Education actually investigated the UN Committee's findings and recommendations in a total of 13 signatory nations. We have only been able to reproduce part of the report, due to considerations of space. A full report may be obtained by writing to the Center, enclosing appropriate postage, at the address given above.
Copyright © Family Matters 1996