2.14 Answers to activities

Activity 2.2: Balancing best interests of a child with the interests of the parents

  1. The parents might argue that many girls of her age are getting pregnant, and that it is very easy to get involved in sexual relationships even if you did not really intend to. They want to protect their daughter from getting pregnant and losing out on schooling. They also worry about the stigma of a teenage pregnancy. They might argue that even if the girl does not choose to have a sexual relationship, many girls get sexually assaulted, so can get pregnant against their will. Their view may be that overall, it is better to be safe than sorry. The risks are too high so it is better to be prepared.
  2. The girl may argue that her parents are showing a total lack of trust in her and undermining her right to make her own choices. She may argue that she has no intention of getting into a sexual relationship, that her education is far too important to her to take such a risk, and that her parents should have a higher opinion of her. She may also feel that the argument that she might be assaulted is a terrible reason for having the injection. If they think she is at risk of being attacked, they should act to protect her not simply act to prevent a pregnancy if it happens.
  3. Obviously, any decision needs to take account of the specific circumstances of the family in question. However, it is very important to recognise the negative implications of forcing a medical intervention on a girl in her teens that she does not want and that is not needed for clinical purposes. It may well damage her relationship with her parents, undermine her sense of self-esteem and self-worth if her parents fail to trust her or support her to make safe choices. In this situation, it may be in the best interests of the girl to spend time exploring her choices, the risks she might be facing, the implications of all those choices, and then encouraging her to think about what action she feels would be best for her.

Activity 2.3: Assessing best interests and competing interests in practice

  1. We have completed more of the table below.
Rights and best interests of a childInterests of other childrenInterests of parents/familyInterests of wider society
Rights in the UN Convention and the African Charter

Children have a right to be protected from all forms of violence

Children have a right to live with their parents, unless it is bad for them

Families have a responsibility to direct and guide their children

Governments should ensure children are protected from violence and abuse

Views of the child

Achen does not want to tell her mother as she is worried about the consequences in the short term

Achen has not considered the interests of other children

Achen is worried about the impact on her family

Achen may be worried about the way others in the community will treat her and her parents

The child’s other needs

Achen is suffering from headaches; there may be physical and emotional harm which affect her; her education may be affected

Achen may provide support in the home which includes looking after younger children

Achen’s family may rely on her to carry out work

Achen may perform other roles in the community which are affecte

The child’s immediate and long term interests

Removing Achen from her family will prevent further sexual abuse; if this happens, Achen may also be restricted in how often she can see her mother in future

If action is not taken to prevent further sexual abuse in this case, it may mean that action is not taken for other children in the future

Achen’s mother will need to experience distress in the short-term if she is told; in the long-term she can take action to protect her daughter and other children

Taking visible action in one case may deter others from committing offences

  1. Achen has a right to be protected from violence and abuse. It is not clear from the information given as to how long the abuse has been continuing for, but it may be over a long period of time. Abuse is likely to continue unless some action is taken. Achen is very worried about the consequences, including the potential for embarrassment to her family and damaging the relationship between herself and her mother. Her fears may or may not be realised, but even if they are, the need to act to prevent further abuse is an overriding concern. It is in Achen’s immediate and long-term interests that action is taken to investigate and prevent further harm to her, and potentially to other children in the future. Action may include: questioning Achen to obtain further facts, reassuring her that she is not to blame and that she has done the right thing by telling you, reporting the information to a more senior member of staff, recording the information for monitoring purposes, and depending on your position and level of seniority, reporting the information to an external authority, who can investigate the claim.

2.13 Self-assessment questions

3 Addressing violence against children