Study session 2
- The best interests of the child can be understood as the principle that all adult actions and decision-making that impacts on children’s lives must be directed towards promoting and ensuring the well-being and dignity of the child. In other words, children’s well-being must be at the centre of adult decisions and actions at all levels of society. It is a principle that applies to decisions affecting individual children as well as those affecting broader groups of children, or children as a whole.
- The right to non-discrimination can be defined as the right to protection from any distinction or exclusion, based on a particular ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.
Your three options should be represented in this list:
- You should always talk to the child and find out what she or he thinks is important, what is of concern to them, what they want to happen. The child’s best interests should always be guided by the child’s own perspective if she or he is old enough to have a view.
- You need to be guided by the rights in the UN Convention and the African Charter as these treaties were produced to provide the basic entitlements that are necessary for children’s well-being. In other words, the implementation of children’s rights will promote their best interests.
- There may be situations where there is a tension between the different rights of a child. For example, the child’s right to family life may not be consistent with their right to protection from violence, if one of the parents is abusing or violating the child. You would need to decide what would be in the best interests of the child overall – to be separated from the family but ensure the right to protection, or preserve their family life but at the cost of continued vulnerability to abuse.
- There may be situations where the rights of one child are in conflict with those of other children. For example, a child might be infectious with a serious disease. This may mean that although the best interests of the individual child would be to remain with her family with their continued care and support, the best interests of children in the community would be best served by that child being isolated from others.
- Direct discrimination is when an action, activity, law or policy deliberately seeks to exclude a particular group of people. For example, a law that prevents women from inheriting property, but has no such limitation for men, or a policy that specifically excludes children with disabilities from education.
- Indirect discrimination is when an action, law or policy has the consequence of excluding or harming particular groups of children, even if that was not its intention. For example, a clinic or hospital that fails to provide a ramp to enable a wheelchair user to access the building would indirectly discriminate against children with physical disabilities. Or if clinics are only located in affluent areas, this would discriminate against poorer communities’ access to health care.
You should already have identified which groups of children you know are discriminated against from your work on activity 2.4. It is important that here you have made a response for each one about action that you can take to address this discrimination.