Saturday, May 17, 2008

Multinational, comparative legal study on the rights of children

The Law Library of Congress published this study. For details go to:

Ancient civilizations entrusted heads of families with omnipotent authority over their children. The rather common underlying legal assumption was that children lack the capacity to discern correctly between prescribed behavioral standards, a condition that made them legally comparable to property and therefore sellable. Academicians have debated on the boundaries of patria potestas (currently translatable into parental authority). As an example, the Roman 12 Tables assigned this power to the fathers. Strict interpreters sustained that this authority was extreme and a remnant of pre-existing “practices of barbarous origin and primitive character” (Table VI, Law I, II and III. S.P. Scott, The Civil Law, Vol. XII, 64-65 (The Central Trust Company 1932)). A more conciliatory approach interpreted the precepts as having gradually evolved to restrict irresponsible and abusive exercise of such authority.

It was not until the 20th Century that the legal status of children was subjected to serious reviews and corrections. The idea that children have rights finally emerged and were embodied in Family Codes and Code of Minors. They were enacted to recognize children as “developing beings whosemoral status gradually changes” thus demanding a realistic understanding of their interests within the families and the larger social context (Introduction to Philosophical Views of Children: A Brief History in the Moral and Political Status of Children (David Archard & Colin Macleod eds., 2005)).

Children hold our hopes for a better future. Their status has been a subject of concern for lawmakers, scholars, judges, lawyers, and common citizens. National laws and regulations as well as international treaties have been dedicated to children with increased interest during the last century.

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