Wednesday 28 November 2007

How can we define citizenship in childhood?

How can we define citizenship in childhood?, by Judith Ennew, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge in: HCPDS, Working Paper Series, Volume 10 Number 12, October 2000.

This article by Judith Ennew for the Harvard Centre for Population and Development Studies looks at civil and political rights of children.

“Children and youth have been activists in the forefront of political struggles, such as the fight against Apartheid in South Africa. Yet this is more likely to be documented (especially since the overthrow of that system) as the victimisation of children than as child political participation. Child soldiers likewise are usually regarded as victims rather than freedom fighters. With the exception of some writers in Latin America there seems to be little discourse even now about children as ‘protagonists’ who take a leading role in social change.” (p. 5).

This paper examines some of the dilemmas involved in implementing children's civil rights and freedoms. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) represents a challenge to all states party to consider children’s rights outside the traditional concerns with protecting children from harm and providing for their needs. Ideas about children’s civil rights and freedoms are often wrongly limited to the so-called ‘participation’ articles (12-15). These are tempered in the CRC by the need to take into consideration ‘the age and maturity of the child’ and in social life in general by adult control over areas in which children can participate and ways in which they are allowed to do so. Thus children’s political participation is often trivialised. Or limited to local-level democracy that is regarded as part of socialisation. Nevertheless it can be argued that, in modern representative democracies, there is little difference in practice between the citizenship rights of adults and children. One related question is whether age is a sufficient reason to exclude citizens from franchise. Indeed, to ask how citizenship is defined in childhood is to raise questions about the rights and duties of all citizens.

The article looks into:

The civil and political rights of children in the CRC
Children’s political action
Children’s voices articulating adult agenda’s
Children’s resistance as a form of (unrecognised) participation
Children's rights and democracy
The grounds for excluding children from franchise
The political development of children
Ages, stages and the passing of time

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