Chapter 6 : Home : Chapter 8 


Chapter 7

The Philosophy of Children's Rights

The key element in PIE's proposals on the age of consent, as we have seen, is the assertion that children should have some say in what they do with their own bodies. They should be free to decide, as a matter of right, whether or not they want a sexual relationship.

The idea that children can have rights in any matter, never mind the contentious area of sexuality, is a new one, and at this stage in history it is still considered incumbent on those who talk of 'children's rights' to provide some philosophical justification of their position.

The main reason that this should be so lies in the conventional wisdom that children are inexperienced and irrational beings; that they may not know the implications of any decisions they may make. They are likely to make choices which are against their own best interests. In these circumstances it appears to be absurd, and against the true interests of children, to give them meaningless freedoms, meaningless 'rights'.

This conventional wisdom begs the question of what is meant by 'children's rights', or rather its sting is against a particular conception of such rights – against a conception which is based on the autonomous decision-making power of the child. It is not directed against rights secured on the child's behalf by its parents or by the state, e.g. the 'right' to publicly-provided education.

This paternalistic conception of children's rights represents what is now entrenched, traditional thinking, at least in the Western democracies. It is to be seen most clearly set out in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which has its origin in a League of Nations declaration of 1924.

The UN Declaration, adopted by the General Assembly in 1959, is concerned almost entirely with the protection of children, not with the expression of their individual will. Thus in Principle 6 it is stated that 'The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents.' (my italics). Also in Principle 7, on education, it is stated: 

'The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his parents'. 1

The phrase 'best interests of the child' is one we shall be considering a lot during this chapter, for in it is embodied the assumption that the benevolent exercise of control of the child by its parents, or sometimes by the state, is incontestably the correct, indeed the only, way to secure the 'best interests of the child'.

As we shall see, this traditional view has been coming increasingly under challenge, particularly in the last decade, and especially in the United States, on the grounds that parents often do not act benevolently, and neither does the state, and that even when they are well intentioned they are often far less well-placed to assess 'the best interests of the child' than the child itself.

Perhaps the clearest way to approach what is philosophically a quite difficult subject, is to confine ourselves for the moment to a particular kind of rights – legal rights – and to examine the gap between the suppositions of traditional paternalistic thinking and the reality of how things work out in practice.

Hillary Rodham, of the United States Children's Defense Fund, has made such an examination of the rights of children under the law. 2

This analysis is based on America, but much of what is said has a general significance for Britain and other Western countries too. 

For clarity's sake, Rodham begins by pointing out that attributing a right to a person may involve describing an existing relationship or prescribing the formation of a new one. The prescriptive aspect of rights represents a moral judgement about how particular interests should be ordered so that certain ones will be given priority over others. 

An existing legal right, by contrast, is a claim enforceable before the courts. Moral prescriptions and political demands for certain 'rights' are not enforceable in law – some would say they are needs, or interests, and not rights. 

Children, although their needs and interests may be greater than those of adults, have far fewer legal rights. Indeed the special needs and interests which distinguish them from adults have served as the basis for not granting them rights, and for entrusting the enforcement of the few rights they have to institutional decision-makers,

The legal status of 'infancy' or 'minority' 

(describing people up to eighteen years of age in England for most purposes, and up to twenty-one for some, e.g. consent to male homosexual acts) 

largely determines the rights of a child before the law, regardless of his actual age or circumstances. Justifications for this broad classification rely on the physical and intellectual differences between adults and children.

As Rodham points out, there is some sense to this rationale, except that the dividing point at twenty-one or eighteen is artificial and simplistic; it obscures the dramatic differences among children of different ages and the striking similarities between older children and adults. The capacities and the needs of a child of six months differ substantially from those of a child of six or sixteen years.

(PIE's proposals on the age of consent take full account of these differing capacities, in relation to the child's ability to express or withhold consent; at the same time they recognize as a constant factor that at all stages during infancy and childhood children need an opportunity for sexual expression – a view which is argued more fully in another chapter.)

Neither English nor American law has any tradition of thinking of children as having 'rights'. In eighteenth-century English common law children were chattels of the family and wards of the state; Blackstone 3 stressed the duties aired by these 'prized possessions' to their fathers and said little about rights. Older children now have some rights – such as the right to drive a motor vehicle – but these are very limited.

The law's concern with children has been largely confined to those occasions when the state may limit parental control in the interest of necessary protection or justifiable punishment of the child. The theory has been that in general the parents are the proper source of control of the child, and that the state should intervene only as a matter of last resort.

But the exact point at which this last resort comes into play is not closely defined. As Rodham says, 

'The most striking characteristic of children's law is the large degree of discretion permitted decision-makers in enforcing community norms'. 4 

When intervention occurs, bureaucratic discretion takes the place of family discretion. The statutes allowing for state intervention imply that the state's representative will know what is in the child's 'best interests'.

Inevitably, says Rodham, when there are fewer standards to guide the exercise of discretion, and few careful reviews of the judgements it produces, individuals will be treated capriciously, and sexual minorities in the community will be in danger of suffering from the prejudices and beliefs of the dominant section of the community.

Says Rodham:

 'This is especially true in children's law where reservations against state intervention are most easily overcome in cases involving poor, non-white, and unconventional families. Children of these families are perceived as bearers of the sins and disabilities of their fathers, and as burdens which an "enlightened" society must bear. 

This attitude is especially prominent in regard to the labelling of certain behaviour as delinquent. In addition to acts which are criminal for adults (e.g. armed robbery), children may be accused of delinquency for misbehaviour that is not criminal for adults. 

The so-called status offences, incorrigibility, truancy, running away, sexual precociousness, represent a confused mixture of social control and preventive care that has resulted in the confinement of thousands of children for the crime of having trouble growing up.' 5

Although Rodham's point is addressed to specifically American conditions, very much the same factors apply in Britain: the operation of the 'moral danger' clause of the Children and Young Person's Act is a good case in point.

However, one should not fall into the trap of assuming that the best way to control the arbitrary and capricious exercise of bureaucratic power is by strengthening the rights of parents. To do so is to make a false equation between the interests of the child and the interests of the parents. For what happens when, for one reason or another, neither the state nor the parents manage to get things right?

Far from being a rarity, this is a situation that appears to arise frequently, and with tragic results. One could give plenty of examples from the sexual sphere, but instances of another type may be better recognized and more persuasive: notably in the case of 'battered' children.

The classic case of Maria Colwell 6 illustrates the point perfectly.

Seven-year-old Maria's stepfather, William Kepple, was found guilty of beating her to death, not long after a court had decided she must leave her foster home to live with him and her natural mother, Mrs. Pauline Kepple. 

Her natural father died when she was a baby. Maria had been taken into local authority care when she was six months old, after an NSPCC investigation had revealed neglect by her mother. In the years that followed she was fostered with relatives in what was by all accounts a good and loving home, until Mrs. Kepple exercised her parental 'right' to the return of the child, unopposed by the local authority social worker in charge of the case.

This was a clear case in which the parents' interests did not coincide with those of the child. The bureaucratic view, based on the dogma that every conceivable effort should be made to have the child brought up by its natural mother, was woefully doctrinaire and unsuited to the circumstances of the case.

If only the law had had available some mechanism by which Maria's own views could have been made known – she wanted to stay with her foster parents – the whole ghastly business need never have happened.

Fortunately, publicity surrounding the Colwell case, and others like it, contributed to the success of Dr David Owen's Parliamentary Bill which introduced provisions for children to be represented in court by advocates who would represent their interests separately from those of either the parents or the local authorities: a modest, but important step in the direction of saying that children – even very young children like Maria – can have a far better knowledge of what is in their own best interests than either the very mother who has given them suckle, or the highly educated social workers who may know a great deal of theory but who cannot always be au fait with practical realities in each case.

The same conclusions about the inadequacy of state and parental judgements, unaided by the independent view of the child, can be drawn with equal force and clarity from parent-versus-parent custody cases: the so-called 'tug-of-love' cases, in which children are allowed to become unrepresented pawns in a parental power game.

The extreme cases of parental cruelty, and the bureaucratic ineptitude of the state, throw into sharp focus the need of the child to have an independent voice; to have recognition of her or his existence as a separate person with natural rights before the law. The philosophical sense to which this claim makes its appeal in one of human rights, rather than specifically of children's rights. It does no more or less than suggest that children should be considered as having needs and interests, requiring individual representation, just like any other person, old or young.

Even when we have made this claim, however, and made it successfully, it may be thought that we have not really said anything very radical. In practice, the legal choice now afforded to a present-day Maria Colwell is, 

'By whom would you like to be dominated for the rest of your childhood?' 

Just because Maria is to be given a say in a matter which could decide whether she lives or dies, and decisions don't come bigger than that, does not mean that she can opt to leave school and go out to work, have boyfriends, drink whisky and vote Conservative, all at the tender age of seven. There is still a presumption, and in many cases a justifiable presumption, that in day-to-day aspects of life someone should be taking decisions on her behalf, 'bringing her up', telling her how to behave.

What we now need to do is to look at some of the broader, day-to-day issues in the life of the child; to see what is the effect, in particular instances, of the child being accorded rights or denied them; to see if, by this process, we can arrive at some philosophic conception of children's rights which makes sense across the board: some set of principles by which we can gauge whether particular right-claims have some validity or are just plain nutty. 

The grandest philosophical conceptions should of course have a degree of universality: they should aim to cover contingencies which may arise in any type of society at any time. That is a very large aim, and before we come to such an abstract consideration, we shall be looking at the place of the child in society.

In introducing the subject, I confined myself to a consideration of legal rights: more specifically, to the ways in which the law at present concerns itself with children. I said that by and large the law concerns itself very little with children, in issues of rights, on the presumption that parents – or, failing parents, the state – will intervene to look after 'the best interests of the child'. 

Ultimately, however, any right-claims, in order to be meaningful, must be backed institutionally in one way or another, with a final appeal to the law where such rights are otherwise denied. As Bernard Crick has said:

'Rights to have any meaning must adhere to particular institutions: the rights of Englishmen are indeed, necessarily more secure than the "Rights of Man".' 7

PIE's own proposals in the field of children's sexual rights are, after all, legal proposals: we intend that they should be enforceable.

Nevertheless, it is worth turning to those polemicists, particularly those in America in the 1970s, who have been claiming a variety of children's rights not specifically as legal proposals, but as assertions of principles that ought to be socially recognized, with or without the support of law.

Richard Farson, author of Birthrights, published in the United States in 1974, is perhaps the most famous of them. John Holt, of Escape From Childhood renown, is another, and both owe a debt to the French historian Philippe Ariιs, whose book Centuries of Childhood was the first in the field with a coherent development of the idea that the whole concept of 'childhood' – of children as necessarily 'innocent' and incapable beings – is a relatively recent invention.

Farson reminds us:

'Before the seventeenth century, children were not thought of as innocent. Only then did innocence become the idea of childhood. It was at that time that children were no longer given indecent books to read and life began to be hidden from them. Previously, adults in the presence of children had talked and acted openly about sex and every other "adult" matter. There was considerable sexual precocity. Louis XIV was in his wife's bed at age fourteen. Girls often married at thirteen.'

(And one must bear in mind that the age of puberty was much higher then than now.)

He continues:

'It was common for an adult to play with a child's genitals [this is still practised in Moslem countries]. But in the seventeenth century children began to be seen as requiring protection and were separated from information about the private lives of adults. In medieval times children were unimportant but enjoyed, even coddled; from the seventeenth century on, children needed to be reformed. Today's parents and children still carry the burdens of that major historical change.' 8

Farson rightly points to the power politics of religion coming to take the child's mind as a battlefield: religion as a factor in education had been a matter of earnest theorizing since Plato, but the stressing of the peculiar importance of the child's mind, especially the young child, because of his impressionability, was the preserve of the Jesuits of the Counter-Reformation. Hence their well-known saying: 'Give me a child for the first seven years, and you may do what you like with him afterwards.'

Ever since then, there has been until – almost the present day – an inclination by moralists and educators of all persuasions to 'mould' the development of the child according to some pre-conceived ideology, based on the view that a child's mind is an empty slate upon which anything can be written at will.

If it was felt that the child's mind was a blank, it was at least conceded that his heart, or soul, was another matter. Those who fought for the control of the child's mind, and through it for his heart and soul, at least began to take the child seriously as a person, even if it was only to mould and change him to a particular straight and narrow development.

Thus we have a curious, and paradoxical state of affairs in which two apparently mutually-exclusive views of the child develop hand in hand. 

One is that of the stern religionist who feels that as we are all 'conceived in sin', we are by nature sinful. We are imbued from the start with a devilish, lustful will, which has to be broken; hence the belief that children should be made from the earliest stages of life to feel tortured by guilt about masturbation: it had to be eliminated with the utmost ferocity. 

It was this doctrine which gave impetus from the eighteenth century onwards to all those stories about masturbation making one go blind or insane, and which meant that any discovered transgressions would be punished by the whip, or by locking up the child's genitalia in absurd and obscene chastity devices designed to prevent self-manipulation.

Yet this very restriction of the child, this ferocious insistence that all his sexual feelings be repressed, was – at the same time – used to reinforce the sentimental notion of childhood 'innocence': not only is the child forced to be unsexual, but he is then praised for the 'innocence' of his nature, which is totally unnatural to him.

Even to this day the moralists who are most keen to portray children as 'innocent' manage to hold this belief in spite of the fact of their known 'corruptibility': Mary Whitehouse, classically, is one of those who want to have it both ways, against all logic.

Farson's view of history, a la Ariιs, is that a proper view of the child was held in former times and that we lost it. Others have found this 'golden age' idea rather simplistic, or at least insupportable in view of the grossness of child abuse in practically every era of history, including those eras before the ideas of 'innocence' and 'protection' took a hold.

Lloyd de Mause, 9 by contrast with Farson, almost goes so far as to say that for children life has always been bad, but that now, every day, in every way, it is getting better and better. His 'psychogenic' theory of history, based on Freudian analysis of the child-rearing practices of successive centuries, recognizes what he calls 'the intrusive mode' of the eighteenth century – the insistence on controlling the child's mind – but points out that with the advent of Freud, and indeed with behaviouristic learning/conditioning theory, there has been more emphasis on training, and the 'channelling of impulses', rather than a direct crushing of the child's will.

In the 'help mode' of the mid-twentieth century, he maintains, the central proposition is that the child knows better than its parents what it needs at each stage of life, and fully involves both parents in paying attention to those needs. There is no attempt, in this mode, to discipline, or to form 'good habits' in the child. Children are not struck. The parents see themselves as the servant of the child rather than the other way round.

For de Mause this 'help mode' represents an ideal approach to child-rearing. The parents who practise it are able to do so only because the human race has reached a high point of 'psychogenic' evolution: no longer do the majority of parents expect to be looked after in their old age by their children, as happened in the past; no longer do they use children as vehicles on which to project the contents of their own unconscious – a psychological process responsible for the whole doctrine of Original Sin, he claims.

The theories of de Mause have come in for some heavy criticism in terms of historical methodology, but those who do accept an evolutionary theory must at least ask themselves, What is the next evolutionary state to be? The de Mause 'help mode' is one which makes its chief appeal to the protective, paternal philosophy of childhood – but it does contain the encouraging admission that on some matters the child knows best, and that he should have room to develop without having parental desires and expectations imposed upon him.

For Farson, as we shall see, things are nothing like so cosily well developed at the moment: he feels that children are crying out to be liberated from the suffocating constrictions of the 'help mode' in so far as it exists. And he makes no bones about appealing to the merits of 'psychogenically backward' societies:

'The potentialities of children seem to be limited only by cultural expectations. In other cultures children are betrothed at birth and married at nine or ten; they became warriors and hunters as early as eight in the Sioux tribes; they give birth at the earliest possible ages, and go through the rites of passage at ten or twelve in some Nigerian villages.

'It is not uncommon in some cultures to see children of two or three actually spending a great deal of time fulfilling the responsibility of caring for younger children, or helping with daily chores.

'Among the Gusii of Kenya, the child is considered capable of training at two and is forced into obedience and the assumption of near adult responsibilities by the age of six or seven. Young Cheyenne Indian boys are given little bows and arrows as soon as they can walk.

'In pre-revolutionary Mexico peasant boys of six or seven were likely to be put to work looking after the oxen and carrying water. Among the Hausa of Nigeria, young girls of eight or nine are expected to carry food and water to the men in the fields. From the age of nine or ten Klamath Indian girls learn to gather and grind their staple diet, and to make mats, baskets and clothing.

'As soon as they can toddle, the children of the East African Chaga are at work looking after smaller babies, carrying water or firewood, helping to prepare food, cleaning animal quarters, sweeping the yard, cutting fodder, and thatching the house.' 10

Cynics may be tempted to add that among the Anglo-Saxon tribe in primitive England it was not uncommon for little boys of seven or eight to be expected to sweep chimneys and work down mines. 

The 'virtuous' primitive practices reeled off so readily by Farson doubtless result in child abuse, as well as in a realization of a child's potential, but the idea that children do have a potential is one worth working on, despite the 'protective' idea that children cannot be involved in any sort of labour, and must be assumed to be incapable of everything until adulthood. 

Even in America, where the idea that children cannot be involved in any sort of labour has been developed to as high an extent as anywhere, people still look back on 'the good life', the life of the American dream, as one in which everybody had a part to play, including the young.

I refer, of course, to the world of the pioneer settler, much romanticized by Hollywood: the world in which a man and his knife carve out their living from the landscape by dint of sheer hard work, dependent on no one, but sober, God-fearing and wholesome. And at their side stands their young son (it had to be a son) who will eventually inherit the spread, but who for the meantime is always to be seen humping buckets around, milking cows, mending fences, even breaking horses: always wishing he were more grown up, but at the same time always being given some new opportunity to participate, in line with his growing strength and experience.

Modern society, as Farson points out, has lost all that. Children are kept at school, arbitrarily and artificially, whether they are particularly gifted at academic 'work' or not. They have no way of participating in the adult world and become alienated from it. A child whose father is an accountant cannot go into his father's office and start giving a hand with the books. He has to find his own way, through the medium of school and college, going through a long, long process by which he can reach the sophisticated skills needed to make a contribution to our present highly complex, specialized work system.

If he makes it, well and good – but in the most advanced societies, particularly in the United States, young people can spend an extended adolescence of non-paying college work, during which they are economically dependent on parental support, right into their mid-twenties or beyond. And if they don't make it, if they leave high school, or the comprehensive, at the earliest opportunity, they remain similarly alienated by joining the dole queue, or going to a low-grade, low-income job in which their alienation from full adult status is similarly complete.

I've no need to dwell on such ideas: the strands of thought from Marx on 'alienation' to Illich on 'de-schooling' need no comment from me except to say that conceptions of children's rights can be seen against a backcloth of social necessity to maintain a cohesive, healthy society, as well as of theoretical human rights.

The process of deciding that children are to be participants in their own destiny, rather than passive recipients of a destiny laid out for them, is one that could and should start at the earliest possible age, Farson believes. And if children are really to have a say in their own destiny, there has to be a genuine choice for children, for all children at all stages of their upbringing, as to how, and with whom, they are brought up. Children need to be able to choose their own parents, not just in cases of inadequacy so gross that even the state can recognize them, but in all cases.

Such an idea may seem far-fetched to a society in which the small, self-contained nuclear family is the norm, but it is to some degree a realistic possibility in various forms of communal upbringing.

Farson addresses his attentions to the merits of that-most-examined-of-all commune arrangement, the Israeli kibbutz. He points to a number of factors about the kibbutz which reduce parent-child conflict:

' 1) The child, supported by the kibbutz, is economically independent of his parents;

2) equality of the sexes eliminates the patriarchal family system;

3) the importance of the nurse allows the child to love someone other than his parents;

4) because nurses handle the primary discipline, the daily visits of parents and children can take place under ideal conditions;

5) jealousy and anger that have to be expressed in the family can be expressed in the kibbutz because the child can find more legitimate objects of aggression among peers; and

6) the collective framework shields the child from overprotective or domineering parents who might block his efforts to become independent.' 11

Without going into Farson's value-judgements – his implied attack on 'patriarchy', for instance – I see the value of a list such as this not so much in terms of what it tells us about kibbutzim, as in the questions it raises on a fundamental level about the relationship between adult and child. 

Should children be economically independent of their parents? Isn't the parents' power to say 'no' to what in their judgement would be a frivolous and immature purchase by the child – say enough sweets to make him sick – an essential element in sensible training of the child? 

Do 'alternative' parents, such as kibbutz nurses, exercise essentially the same discipline?

What about the Rousseauvian idea that children learn best through responsibility: let them buy excessive sweets, let them be sick, let them make their own judgement whether they want to do that again? 

If the parents' control of the purse gives them an 'unreasonable' degree of power in holding back the child's approach towards independence, at what point, if any, can a child's 'right' to economic independence be asserted? 

Is it meaningful to assert a 'right' to financial rewards which are not earned, in view of the fact that in such circumstances he who does make economic provision (the parent-earner, or the communal earners of kibbutzim wealth) for the child would necessarily have to forgo the rights which would normally accrue to his own labour?

Such are a few of the questions on an economic level. 

In the spheres of affectional dependency/independence, and of 'primary discipline' they are just as far-reaching. 

Underlying all these questions is a yet more fundamental range of questions about society's expectations of its children: about the implicit, or explicit, aims of child rearing and of education, about each generation's expectations for its children as they grow up, not only as individuals, but in terms of the future nature and achievements of society as a whole – though it is even an assumption to suppose that all societies have any expectations of their offspring: there are some happy-go-lucky peoples (or irresponsible, unimaginative ones?) who do not consciously impose values or goals of any sort, beyond what can be summarized in the slogan 'Do your own thing' (if by sheer chance, you happen to have developed one!).

The kibbutz provides an excellent example of the exact opposite, of a communal ethic built on a great sense of a united purpose, in which the group demands above all a loyalty to the aims of the group. In these circumstances the child's individual personality can be submerged in group activities. The Israeli sense of purpose lies in fairly crude, but clearly defined, nationalism. 

Other examples of such a strong communal purpose can be found in a variety of religious communes, in Plato's education of the 'guardians', and indeed in their ideological descendant, the English public school system (not, one would have thought, the most fruitful place at which to start the quest for children's rights!).

But we must be careful that in any such quest we do not put the cart before the horse: we must first, like Plato, look to the nature of 'the good', and of a 'just' social order, before we can proceed to the issue of whether the idea of children's rights is at all appropriate. It's too grandiose a task for this volume, but in passing I can recommend to any brave soul in search of Utopia, the book Children of the Counterculture by John Rothchild and Susan Wolf.' 12 

An examination of many weird, and some wonderful, Utopias – various American communes set up in the 'hippy' era of the late 1960s – it pays special attention to the impact of would-be Utopian lifestyles on the children growing up in them. Some of the more libertarian experiments have involved a total abdication of almost all the responsibilities accepted by parents in mainstream society. 

From the earliest ages, in some communes, children are allowed not only complete sexual freedom, but all sorts of much more alarming freedoms – such as the freedom to experiment with drugs like LSD, or to mess about with loaded guns; there is also freedom from any enforced commitment to formal education with the not-surprising result that the children are growing up illiterate.

The authors, themselves high-achieving, middle-class parents, admit to having ambitions for their own children, and make no bones about it. But at the same time they point out that the social 'education' of the counter-culture children was not nearly as disastrous as might be supposed. Despite their immensely dangerous surroundings, and their lack of formal education, or guidance of any sort, these children seemed to be growing up to be much more pleasant and self-reliant than conventional middle-class children. 

There appeared to be amongst them a sort of new breed of Noble Savage, like twelve-year-old Andy Peyote, whom the authors met when he was hitch-hiking, alone, on a Californian highway. 

The son of a famous commune pioneer from the New Mexico hills, young Peyote – courteous, clean, intelligent, competent in the practical business of looking after himself, and neither a deadbeat nor a rebel (there being no rules or rule enforcers to rebel against) – clearly struck a romantic chord in the hearts of Rothchild and Wolf. For here was a youngster who had been given an amazing degree of responsibility for his entire upbringing, and was demonstrably coping, even to the extent of going off on his own, or with friends his own age, for weeks on end, returning to his parents and other commune members from time to time, more in order to be sociable than because of any dependence on them.

Never having been a parent (to my deep regret), I've never had to worry about how I'd feel if my child were exposed to guns and drugs, with no guidance from an adult. But my three years in the teaching profession left their mark in terms of developing strong notions of what it was responsible or not responsible for me to let children do, and Peyote-type freedoms have never even begun to figure. 

I suspect this is something deeply embedded in my way of thinking, derived from way-back, and probably of neurotic origin, rather than resulting specifically from the role-expectations inherent in playing a part in the authoritarian state system of education.

I must admit it: letting children do what they want makes me nervous. I'm scared of anarchy. I used to like a reasonably orderly classroom, full of well-behaved children who put their hand up to ask questions one at a time, who paid attention to what I told them and didn't give too much trouble. 

Even now, if I'm chatting to children who don't know who I am, even if I'm being friendly and relaxed and informal, I tend to give the impression, despite myself, that I'm a schoolteacher. I don't boss children around, but just in small things – like suggesting that they put their lollipop wrappers in a waste bin – I automatically find myself modelling their behaviour.

This being the case, I find the romantic freedoms of the counter-culture completely hair-raising and devoutly to be avoided. 

On the other hand the freedom of A.S. Neill's Summerhill is a different matter. This is somehow freedom under control. It is middle-class. It remains within the Establishment. It is deeply serious. A.S. Neill's philosophy is a thought-out version of freedom for children, based on the idea that they can be brought to understand society and themselves by learning to 'govern' themselves, according to rules which adults encourage them to understand as 'sensible'.

This has appeal, for those of us who like to think out our position on children's rights and freedoms through connections with the Western liberal tradition. However, I cannot help but agree with the view of Paul Goodman, author of Growing Up Absurd, when he asserts 13 that Neill, in encouraging children to govern themselves, was to some extent falsely imposing adult ideas: one man one vote, the social contract, political democracy, can be taken much too seriously. As he puts it, children have respect for strength, skill and experience when settling their own disputes. The primal jungle is not to be denied.

Goodman sees the value of Summerhill in giving children's wildness a chance to express itself, instead of forcing children towards the rules of socialization. The process can almost be seen as conserving children as 'a natural resource or a natural wonder', in which the key words are 'spontaneity, fantasy, animality, creativity, innocence'. 

At the same time, such a view is dangerous in the sense that it can become stiflingly sentimental, a view of children as completely useless in a practical sense, like pet animals, as beings to be kept out of practical life, as ignorant and retarded.

As always, when one detects lunacy on the fringe of ideas, on the fringe of liberty for the child, or of the commune lifestyle that is non-achieving in conventional terms, one begins to look at the middle ground. What are the implications of children's rights for ordinary, suburban folk who want to avoid being arbitrary and dictatorial with their children, but are too caring to let them run wild?

Both Richard Farson and Dr Larry Constantine, author of 'Open Family', have a lot of useful ideas. Farson, for instance, proposes that children should be given a genuine choice of home environments by a variety of means, including child exchange programmes between families.

But the significant thing about the ideas of both of them is that they advocate a fairly clearly defined set of expectations about the behaviour of children in relation to adults. Basically it consists in the abolition of double standards, so that what shall be good for the goose will also be considered good for the gosling.

They see the family in terms of class structure. In traditional families the parents are the upper class, with special privileges, such as late bedtimes, sexual intercourse and so on. They wield economic power and authority in decision making, and use elitist rationale to justify their class advantage. Constantine points out:

'After all, we the upper class, are smarter, better educated, better equipped by temperament and experience to make tough decisions. The lower class is really happier, more care free; they really prefer to be subservient. Besides, we earned our place by working our way up through the ranks, and any way, it is the natural order of things. Finally, of course, we are stronger.' 14

The way round this, in Constantine's 'Open Family', is not to pretend that differences in experience, etc., and their importance, do not exist, but to emphasize the importance of functions within the family, rather than the individuals who carry them out. Thus in any family there is a need for 'gentleness, assertiveness, tender caretaking, guiding, teaching, playfulness, responsibility, frivolity, task direction, nonsense, logic and many other things which can be learned and shared among all members'. 

But it doesn't always have to be the parents who are responsible: it is not uncommon, for instance, for the child to be the one who insists that Dad does up his car seat-belt, or who nags him not to smoke so much. And sometimes, after a hard day at the office, or wherever, in a healthy family Dad may cry on his child's shoulder, and receive solicitude from him. 

Lloyd de Mause would write off such behaviour in the adult as psychological weakness: falling prey to the Freudian notion of 'reversal'; but expressed within limits there is no reason why both parent and child should not enjoy and benefit from a certain amount of role reversal of this kind.

The important thing is that the function of parenting is carried out: that the children get it when they need it, and maybe that the parents get it too, to a lesser extent. The same applies to responsibility. A family should have responsibility as a function exercised within it, but this should not be seen as the exclusive role of any one of its members.

This leads on to the notion that rights within the family do not attach themselves to those with a particular role. When this is realized, the rationale for double standards of privileged and non-privileged behaviour begins to seem less secure. 

By way of a substitute for contrived, arbitrary standards, such as that Joy (Constantine's four-year-old daughter) will go to bed whenever her mother says so, it becomes possible to substitute a rights-based formulation. 

Does Joy have a right to decide on her own bedtime? Well, the way to test that is to ask whether by choosing her bedtime there are any dire consequences against her own best interests, or against the legitimate rights of her parents. Is it going to make her tired, irritable and generally a pain in the ass to herself and her parents next day? 

Coming back to 'best interests', who will ultimately interpret these? Assuming, as we have done on the basis of more extreme cases earlier on, the fallibility of parents, even given their goodwill, it is not good enough for the parents to lay down the law and leave it at that.

In the case of the correct bedtime for Joy what happened was that she was given the opportunity to stay up late. She did get irritable. She was a nuisance. But at least she realized it and was persuaded by her parents as to the source of the problem. 

Nevertheless, she still didn't go to bed at a sensible time. In the end she asked to be put to bed at a 'sensible' time even against her own protestations. Her parents agreed to this, making sure at the same time that a 'no hassle' clause was built into the agreement, i.e., having asked for regular bedtimes, she was not to make a fuss come the appointed hour. 

Her sister, just two years older, had no such need to be given a set time, enforced by her parents. She was able to see the problem in going to bed late and duly packed herself off.

The moral of the story is not that children can always arrive at a solution in this way: if Joy had claimed she was old enough to ride her bike out on the roads, Dad couldn't reasonably take the risk of letting her find out her limitations. But it does show that a certain reluctance to use arbitrary authority can reveal that it may be appropriate, for instance, to accord a right to a six-year-old that a four-year-old is not really capable of using properly.

Few families, perhaps, have the sensitive negotiating skill of the Constantines in considering the appropriate rights of children. Arguably, the more generally a right is asserted – if one is talking about the bedtime rights of all children – the harder it is to say anything very definite, and the more one may be thrown back into saying that only the parents can decide.

At this point it is worth considering the whole issue in much greater philosophical depth, by wheeling on heavy artillery in the form of John Rawls' theory of justice 15

To assert rights to fair treatment, as Rawls does, is to 'assert an obligation on the part of adults to acknowledge the just claims of children,' writes Victor Worsfold in the Harvard Educational Review. 16

'A claim which is just in Rawls' scheme is one which is consistent with the procedural principles of justice on which society should be founded, principles which should extend to children as well as adults. In Rawls' theory, the exercise of children's rights may not always be left to the children themselves, but children are presumed to be able to exercise their own rights unless all of society agrees that someone else should make decisions for them' [my italics].

Rawls' system of justice requires that people

'. . . understand the need for, and are prepared to affirm, a characteristic set of principles for assigning basic rights and duties and for determining what they take to be the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation'.

His goal is to permit each individual to act according to a personal conception of her or his own best interests, but not at the expense of others. Worsfold summarizes the approach thus:

'In order to achieve Rawls' just society, individuals engage in a mutual process of evolving principles of fair treatment for everyone, present and future. His central idea is that everyone in the society must participate in choosing these principles, and that the principles are to be selected in a hypothetical state or "original position", in which the individuals are ignorant of their own specific interests and circumstances in real life. 

All participants in society are self-interested in making their decisions. But ignorance of their station in life and of the particular configuration of their society guarantees for Rawls that the individuals will choose principles of justice impartially, with equality in mind, so that no one is made to serve as an instrument of the interests of others.

'The process would result in one system of justice arising, Rawls argues, with just two fundamental principles of justice: The first is that each person should have a personal liberty compatible with a like liberty for all others; no one should be any freer than anyone else in society to pursue his or her own ends. The second is that societal inequalities are to be arranged such that all individuals must share whatever advantages and disadvantages the inequalities bring.

'In Rawls' theory, children are participants in the formation of the initial social contract to the extent they are capable. In order to participate fully in this process one must have attained "the age of reason". But there is no attempt to rigidly define this age, or to link it with a particular conception of rationality or a particular notion of prerequisite skills and understanding. Instead, Rawls seems to imply that as children's competencies develop, their participation should increase.

'Rawls points out that it is the capacity for accepting the principles of fairness which matters when deciding who is to count as a member of society. He writes that "a being that has this capacity, whether or not it is yet developed, is to receive the full protection of the principles of justice."

Children are pre-eminently such beings, and therefore qualify as members of the society, with just claims to fair treatment. Clearly some individuals in society will be better at applying the principles of justice than others. 

Any advantage those people receive from the exercise of these principles, however, will be regulated by the second principle of justice: people are not to enjoy a special advantage as a result of natural ability or social status. The characteristic which defines the just individual is the capacity for a sense of justice rather than the immediate realisation of this capacity.

'But sceptics may not yet be satisfied. They may argue that if children cannot participate fully in generating the principles necessary for the just society, they should not be accorded rights. 

In the Rawlsian view, however, it is more reasonable to assume that children are competent to perform this initial task, at least in part, rather than risk the logical alternative to it; that they shall be denied the possibility of pursuing their own just ends. 

Rawls wants to take account of our intuitive sense that even quite young children often do know what they want, and are capable of weighing alternatives and of acting on the decisions they make – precisely the kind of deliberation required of those choosing the original principles.'

Worsfold goes on to make an interesting analogy. Just as children use adults to help them come to sensible decisions, so adults themselves submit to the advice of specialists – for instance their doctor, or lawyer. In such cases, authority is accorded to the specialist, conditional upon the way it affects attainment of the adults' goals, or the choice of wise goals. For children, the authority of adults depends on similar criteria.

He continues:

'Those selecting the principles of justice would probably consent to some form of paternalism. But they would be very reluctant to adopt any paternalism which did not protect them against abuses of authority by members of the older generation.

'Others are authorized and sometimes required to act on our behalf and to do what we would do for ourselves if we were rational, this authorization coming into effect only when we cannot look after our own good. 

Paternalistic decisions are to be guided by the individual's own settled preferences and interests in so far as they are not irrational, or failing a knowledge of these, by the theory of primary goods. As we know less and less about a person, we act for him as we would act for ourselves from the standpoint of the original position. 

We try to get for him the things he presumably wants whatever else he wants. We must be able to argue that with the development or recovery of his rational powers the individual in question will accept our decision on his behalf and agree with us that we did the best thing for him.

'The conception of children's interests implicit here is already more adequate than that of the classical paternalist schemes explored earlier (Hobbes, Locke, Mill). For Rawls, children are entitled to rights of their own. Also, the interests of the children are not necessarily synonymous with those of parents or protectors.'

This is all very well, but we are still left with the old problem of what mechanism is available to children to question judgements made on their behalf. We are back again to the problem of how to determine 'the best interests of the child'.

Rawls anticipates this problem and addresses himself to it in three ways.

Firstly – and this is a major point:

'[H]e makes it clear that adults cannot claim after the fact that they have treated children fairly simply on the grounds that the children are finally persuaded of the correctness of their decision.'

Rawls gives an example of the dangers:

'... Imagine two persons in full possession of their reason and will who affirm different religious or philosophical beliefs; and suppose that there is some psychological process that will convert each to the other's view, despite the fact that the process is imposed on them against their wishes. In due course, let us suppose, both will come to accept conscientiously their new beliefs. We are still not permitted to submit them to this treatment.'

Secondly, Rawls states that 'paternalistic intervention must be justified by the evident failure or absence of reason and will.' In other words, in the case of children, he would shift from a presumption of incapability, which largely exists at present, to a presumption of capability. This is of major importance for children's rights, shifting the burden of proof to those who would make a denial of such rights.

Thirdly, Rawls suggests that paternalistic intervention must be guided by the principles of justice and what is known about the subject's more permanent aims and preferences, or by the account of primary goods'. At a minimum, therefore, children should be consulted about their aims and preferences.

The whole of our discussion so far has been concerned with rights which merit serious philosophical consideration in relation to the level of the child's rational powers. A child's sexual rights, I believe, are not in the same league at all. There is nothing about sexuality for which one needs a competent rationality. It is completely harmless, unlike many of the things children want to do and claim a right to do; theoretically, sexuality is one area in which there should be no finely balanced claims as to what is in 'the best interests of the child'.

It might be useful here to point out that we in PIE are not the only ones who think along broadly these lines. Richard Farson himself has some fairly radical things to say:

'Our strong taboo about adult-child sex has led to the application of the most severe penalties to even the most innocent acts of affection. The penalty is not appropriate to the crime and probably neither cures not deters. We can and should decriminalize sexual relations between consenting people. Assault and kidnapping laws already on the books would cover the cases which involve force, abduction or abuse. The remaining cases are better dealt with by improved sex education, enlightened sexual attitudes, and an increased respect for children's rights.' 17

About the right of children to have sex among themselves he is in no doubt, while his concern in relation to child-adult sex is simply based on the fact that there should be respect for the child's choice. This is a keyword in PIE's thinking too, but is very often overlooked in conventional, accepted means of relating to children, as he points out:

'What children really need is the option to refuse. The freedom not to engage in sexual activity is as important as any other aspect of sexual freedom. But children are raised in such a way that they cannot refuse adults. Parents have insisted that children accept all forms of affection from relatives and friends – being picked up, fondled, hugged, kissed, pinched, tickled, squeezed – leaving children with little experience in saying no. 

They also have little experience in trusting their own reactions to people and in resisting the promise of rewards. They are not informed about sexual matters, do not understand their own sexuality or that of others, and thus cannot cope effectively in this area. We keep children ignorant and then worry that they are vulnerable to sexual advances.' 18

The reductio ad absurdum of this argument is that a mother would need to seek her baby's 'permission' in order to hug it, and it is not clear how this permission would be given or withheld. By extension, the same problem would apply to some extent into perhaps the third or fourth year of childhood. 

In so far as Farson's argument would introduce an unfortunate lack of spontaneity into child-adult relations, I would have my doubts about it. On the other hand, even babies can wail with anxiety or gurgle with delight, according to the way in which they are handled. 

Nevertheless, it is accepted, perhaps too automatically, that babies are there to be kissed, by everyone from doting maiden aunts to politicians campaigning for election, and no one is expected to ask themselves, as they should, what the baby may feel about it. 

As children grow older, they are more likely, arguably, to sense some feeling of assault on the part of those adults who make no reference to their own wishes when kissing them, lifting them up, and so on. I know I intensely disliked being kissed by my mother, but, equally, I was expected to put up with it (and still am, sometimes!).

Traditionally, boys find the affectionate attentions of their mother fairly hard to escape, right throughout childhood, but when they cease to be babies or toddlers they do not generally speaking have to put up with the unsolicited attentions of other females, and certainly not males: there is no social presumption whatever that it is automatically OK for a man to kiss a ten-year-old boy. Quite the reverse.

Assumptions regarding girls are rather different. At all ages it is taken for granted that it is acceptable for men, providing they are not complete strangers, to 'make a fuss of them', in an automatic, sexist assumption which foreshadows the way in which so many men treat women. 

Although this often stays at the level of hugging and kissing it may be that overtly sexual acts of men towards young girls – particularly the avuncular cuddle that just happens to result in a hand straying into naughty places – can be passed off to the child as an ordinary way of expressing affection, and one which the child is not expected to refuse.

My own experience is largely confined to boys and the ways in which men relate to them, but it has been impressed upon me a lot by feminists that girls 'usually' undergo such experiences. In one case a friend said that when she was little she had been repeatedly touched underneath the knickers by a man who was a friend of the family, in the family home. 

Presumably the man was able to get very close to the sexual part of the act – by sitting the child on his knee, etc. – just on the strength of conventional behaviour towards children. When he went beyond this, however, the girl knew he was doing something 'wrong'. She had been brought up in a household where genital zones were clearly naughty, no-go areas, so she did not have doubts on that score. 

Nevertheless, she felt unable to do anything about it. Sex was something so dirty and nasty that her parents just didn't mention it. In a household in which even the word 'knickers' was too crude to talk about, it's hardly surprising she did not dare tell her parents what had happened: so she had instead to put up with repeated assaults.

In either case, whether the child is conned into thinking that it is socially acceptable for fingers to be put in knickers, or whether the subject is too dreadful to report to parents, Farson's point holds good: children are much better off in making their own, valid choices, if they know what adult sexuality is about, instead of being kept in ignorance of it, and if they are made aware by society as to what their choices are – including the choice to say no to sitting on Uncle John's lap.

Anyone who feels it may be rather naive to suppose that young children could ever confidently assert their rights against the authority of a grown man is completely mistaken: the major deterrent to men attracted to boys is not the threat of prison sentences or social disgrace, but the threat of being rebuffed by the boys themselves. 

In talking to boys I am personally always only too aware that if ever I were to take the initiative in making my sexual interest known to them, I would run the dread risk of being rejected as a 'poof' or a 'bender'. 

It's not the names that hurt: the sting, and it's a terrible one, lies in the child's contempt and rejection of oneself. His means of expression may not be all that eloquent or subtle, but its very directness makes it extremely powerful and crushing. No boy-lover that I know, and I know plenty, would try to brazen or bully his way past derision like that.

I'm not recommending that little girls should be equipped with a similarly nasty vocabulary. Nor do I feel that children should have it made clear to them that it is alright for uncle to kiss, but not alright for him to touch in genital places. The key lies in the child having an appreciation, through being told about sexual matters and being allowed to express her or himself sexually, of what she or he wants and does not want; it does not lie in an appeal to generalized conventions of social behaviour.

How the child chooses to express himself sexually will depend upon how his right to sexual knowledge is granted. Of course much will be independently determined by his own physiology – whether, at the age of eight, say, a particular child feels highly sexed, or marginally so, or perhaps not at all; but beyond this what he or she learns is all important.

As Farson says:

'One of the most pervasive and yet most disabling concepts in modern psychology is the belief that people need sex role identity. The concept of sexual identity has been so persuasively argued by Freud, Erikson, and many others that it is indeed difficult to question. We seem to be totally convinced that little boys need fathers and little girls need mothers, or at least they need around them adults of the same sex with whom to identify. Without these models the child would not know who he or she is and would grow up unhealthy, confused, and afraid ....

'The fear is that children will not be able to live up to the stereotypes: that boys will be non-athletic, passive, delicate, impotent, or worst of all, homosexual; that girls will be roughneck, homely, assertive, and perhaps worst of all, lesbian.' 19

Feminists have rightly pointed out that the stereotyped roles and behaviour of the young of either sex are reinforced by society in many ways, notably in children's books, in the expectation that boys will play with construction sets and girls with dolls, and so on. 

What isn't always pointed out is that this conditioning, which condemns women to limit their horizons to being homemakers, is part of a society which puts a high value – an excessive and neurotically high value – on normality across the board. It's part of a society which contemplates with horror, for instance, the idea of two lesbians bringing up a child together, for no better reason than that the child will grow up to be less subjected to the conventional role stereotypes than other children: not that the parents will be less loving or capable.

The insistence on normality is evident in existing sex education, and ought not to be. As Farson has it:

''The requirement that the sexuality of single people be ignored, that sex be taught as part of education for family life, limited to the heterosexual activities of a married couple and emphasizing its procreative functions has led to an even greater pressure to conform to the traditional role of self-fulfilment through the creation of a nuclear family.

'Few teachers understand how strong that pressure is and how easily and unconsciously they exert it. In many elementary schools, children who do not live in nuclear families are in the majority. Yet the amount of pressure to appear "normal" is so great, that when asked to draw their families, these children will actually fake a family with mother and father and several children. 

Teachers can communicate this worship of normalcy simply by asking what his or her father's name is. Many children who have no live-in father simply don't know. This assumption of the desirability and universality of nuclear family life dominates all sex education programmes and presents major barriers to the presentation of material on premarital sex (even the term loads the question), on homosexuality, and on the many variations of both child and adult sexuality.' 20

Trying to look at this for a moment from a Rawlsian point of view, I would suggest that education of this sort is an infringement of children's rights. 

In the Rawlsian 'original position' we can safely suppose that those who are engaged in drawing up the principles of justice, any one of whom might, without knowing it, be, for instance, homosexual, or in some other minority group (perhaps the parent, or even the child, in a one-parent family), would not willingly create a system in which there was discrimination against social minorities, except those – such as thieves – who could be shown to infringe the rights of others. 

On the contrary, they would be uncomfortable in the absence of clear guarantees – one of which would be broad-minded, comprehensive reference in social and sex education to behaviour other than the mainstream – that the minority would be treated fairly.

Implicit in a society which recognizes a child's right to sexual expression, and to knowledge about matters sexual, is the right to know about how to cope with the genuine problems of sexuality – such as VD and unwanted pregnancy. Very often those parents who are the most vigorous in warning their children about the dangers of Strange Men (dangers which are largely unreal) are also the most insistent that they should be kept in ignorance about the real problems, and deprive them of' the knowledge and equipment that would enable them to cope.

Children need full information about birth control and VD. Such information is of course useless without access to the necessary drugs and equipment. Along with fuller sex information, there should be ways of providing children with contraceptive and protective devices, possibly by supplying them through schools.

As Farson remarks,

'The situation is now truly absurd. Our insanity is evident when we give people information about birth control pills, but not the pills themselves. We teach boys how to protect themselves from venereal disease, but they cannot legally purchase the condoms necessary to provide such protection. It has been the policy in some institutions to give a girl birth control information only after she has become pregnant.' 21

In this chapter I have tried to suggest a theoretical basis for children's rights, in particular their sexual rights. 

I have tried to point out that rights are dependent on the whole structure of the society in which they are asserted and fought for; that those needs and interests which come to be asserted as rights cannot necessarily be recognized and supported without changing the structure of society as well as its laws: how can a child have the right to choose his parents unless we introduce communal living, or child exchange programmes – unless, in other words, society recognizes the limitations for the child of the nuclear family, and tries to do something about them? 

I have tried to show that in making such challenges – in going overboard for 'free' communes, for instance, with their explicit abandonment of the achievement-orientated goals of 'civilized' society – we have to recognize the fundamental implications of change. I hope also to have indicated that people like Farson and Constantine pose some realistic alternatives for us to think about.

I have had nothing at all to say about many issues of children's rights which in Britain most readily arouse indignation on behalf of children: the issue of corporal punishment in schools, for instance – although PIE's own journal, Childhood Rights, has entered the lists on this issue with campaigning articles for the abolition of corporal punishment.

The absence of such references does not mean that I care only about sex (though as I have indicated earlier sex affects practically everything in life, including, if sexuality is frustrated, the creation of attitudes of mind that make corporal punishment acceptable to society). What it does mean is that I have largely tried to talk about children's rights on a general basis – to erect principles for granting them which hold good no matter what the particular issue.

For this reason also, I have not gone painstakingly through the assertions one could make on behalf of parental rights, although in this regard it may be worth referring the reader to Constantine's analysis of alternative family structures. 22 

In the next chapter, in any case, I'll be dealing with the realities of power in families and elsewhere, and for the moment I'd like to leave the reader with a Child's Sexual Bill of Rights, which has been formulated by the Childhood Sensuality Circle of America: 23

Whereas a child's sexuality is just as much a part of his whole person from birth as the blood that flows in his veins, making his sexual rights inherent and inalienable, and

Whereas the United Nations Organization proclaimed a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, stating everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms encompassed in this Declaration without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religious opinion, national or social origin, birth or other status, and

Whereas a Declaration of the Rights of the Child was proclaimed by the UN in 1959, but no mention was made of the sexual needs and rights of children, and

Whereas a child not allowed to express all the instinctive desires nature endowed him with becomes an unhappy, frustrated, antisocial being and potential criminal, and

Whereas it is time the people of the United States and their lawmakers recognise these facts of life and act accordingly.

Therefore, the following inalienable rights are specifically set forth, to be implemented by appropriate legislation on a national and state level, and measures taken for the re-education of the citizenry in every part of the United States, this education to he available free to every citizen, whether school child or adult:

1. Legal Protection Every child shall be legally protected in his sexual rights regardless of age or status as a legal minor.

2. Child's right to his own person Every child has the right to privacy for his own personal thoughts, ideas, dreams, and exploration of his own body without any kind of adult interference, directly or indirectly expressed.

3. Sex information Every child has the right to accurate sex information and to be protected from sex misinformation as soon as he is able to understand this information in simple terms.

4. Emotional growth Each child has the right to grow mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually as a free, uncrippled happy person in security so he will be tolerant and appreciative of other individuals and their sexuality.

5. Sensual pleasures Each child has the right to fully enjoy the sensual pleasures he may feel without shame or guilt.

6. Learning the art of love All children have the right to learn the art of love beginning at any age he is able to understand, just as he is entitled to learn any other art or skill.

7. Choice of a sex partner Every child has the right to loving relationships, including sexual, with a parent, sibling, or other responsible adult or child, and shall be protected and aided in doing so by being provided with contraceptives and aids to prevent venereal disease.

8. Protection from sexual suppression Each child has the right to be protected from any form of sex suppression at home or in society so that in adulthood he will be capable of living his sex life according to his natural desires and not according to the dictates of tradition.

Chapter 6 : Home : Chapter 8