Barbara Bennett Woodhouse
Emory University School of Law; University of Florida - Fredric G. Levin College of Law
U of Penn. Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 06
Children's rights pose a paradox for legal theory. We visualize rights-bearers as autonomous individuals. Yet children come into the world completely dependent and only gradually acquire autonomy. Given the complex nature of children's situation, rights must be revisualized to include not only capacity based rights, recognizing children's emerging autonomy, but also needs based rights, recognizing children's essential dependence on adults to provide nurture and protection. This paper identifies five basic human rights principles and applies them to children's special situation: 1) the equality principle becomes the right to equal opportunity; (2) the individualism principle becomes the right to be treated as a unique individual and not as an object; (3) the privacy principle honors the child's intimate relationships; (4) the protection principle requires government to protect the weak from the strong; and (5) the empowerment principle supports the child's right to a voice in court proceedings. This revisioning of rights also exposes the limitations of any rights theory that fails to recognize the linkage between human dependency and individual autonomy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 40Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 2, 2000
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