Balancing the interests of a child with parents and family

Most parents will have their children’s best interests at heart. However, it cannot be assumed that this will always be the case. There are times when the interests of children and parents can be in conflict. For example, a parent may wish to arrange for a teenage girl to be given a contraceptive injection to prevent her getting pregnant. However, the girl may strongly object to having the injection, perhaps because she is frightened of injections or because she feels it is a sign of her parents not trusting her.

Although the UN Convention and the African Charter fully recognise the importance of parents in children’s lives, and respect their rights and responsibilities towards their children, it also stresses that children have rights and that it cannot simply be assumed that parents will always act in the best interests of children. Where children’s rights are placed at risk by their parents, the best interests of the child must always come first. Where parents abuse or neglect their children, for example, or discriminate against girls. Health professionals need to ensure that this principle underpins all services, procedures or policies, which they are responsible for implementing.

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

Think about the example described above – a parent forcing a girl to have a contraceptive injection.

If you are working with others on this curriculum, break into two groups with one group taking the side of the parent and the other taking the side of the girl. Then construct a role play arguing out the scenario. What arguments might you bring to support each position?

After the role play, discuss in plenary whether you think it is in girls’ best interests when parents force them to have contraceptive injections to prevent pregnancy while they are still at school?

Compare your answers to those at the end of the study session.

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Balancing the interests of a child with other children

Balancing the interests of a child with wider society