Feminism and Children’s Rights
The Family In Law Review (Hebrew), Vol. 1, pp. 57-105, 2007
59 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2009
Date Written: November 27, 2009
Has feminism breached new boundaries and entered into the arena of children’s rights? Are feminist theories prepared to act for the benefit of other weak sectors of the population and other family members by rectifying social wrongs which are not directed at women? This study seeks to examine the degree of influence exerted by various feminist theories on the promotion of children’s rights by looking at the issue of corporal punishment of children. A glance at the general character of the group which contributed, in part directly and decisively but in part indirectly, to the imposition of the prohibition on the corporal punishment of children and pupils in Israel and its acceptance by the public, shows that the group comprises mostly women: judges, members of Knesset, Ministry of Justice workers, members of children’s rights organizations and members of academe. However, at no stage during the process of change was it ever mentioned, even indirectly, that feminist theories were the motivating force. In order to examine the question underlying the article, the author not only considers the identities of the forces behind the process, but also the nature of the process, and attempts to determine whether the process of change is an outcome of primarily radical feminist theories, as not every measure taken almost entirely by women must necessarily be defined as feminist in nature. The purpose of this examination is not only to identify the processes relating to corporal punishment but also to open a window on two broader issues. The first issue entails an examination of the potential influence of feminist theories on the development of children’s rights in general in other arenas, inter alia, by considering whether it is at all possible to compare male-female relations, in which feminism sees an artificial gap which must be completely eliminated, to parent-child relations, where the gap is perhaps more natural and ensues from the duty to educate. The second issue concerns an attempt to examine whether feminist theories are interested in advancing the rights of weak or disadvantaged sectors of the population, other than women, or whether they are interested in confining their struggle solely to male-female relations, even if theoretically the nature of the feminist struggle is compatible with the struggles of other groups. This will allow us to hone our understanding of the degree of application and reach of feminist theories. The case study prima facie shows that feminist theories have a clear influence, of a principally radical nature. However, the author queries and casts doubt on this conclusion on both the macro and micro levels of the case study. The article concludes that it is possible to point, at most, to a modicum of feminist influence on this issue and that one might perhaps have anticipated a stronger and more express influence in the light of the similarity of the two objectives - protection of women and protection of children within the family. The author suggests a thorough analysis of other issues concerning parent-child relations through the prism of feminism, on the premise that these are unploughed fields from the point of view of the potential influence which may be exerted by one field – women’s rights – on the other – children’s rights. The examination focuses on the question whether the potential influence under consideration in this article is capable of spurring researchers who define themselves as feminists to also write and cause an impact in the field of children’s rights, and whether this influence will have a beneficial effect on children’s rights or, to the contrary, perhaps interfere in the promotion of those rights by reason of the antagonism which some decision-makers feel towards feminism.
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