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Family separations and the rights of immigrant children
Amy Risley

The present chapter analyzes how immigrant children are excluded from the benefits of the global children’s rights regime by performing an in-depth case study of the Trump administration’s forcible family separations at the US-Mexico border. The chapter argues that government officials deliberately caused trauma to punish families and modify their behavior, contrary to treaty obligations and domestic laws, abandoned the principle of the best interests of the child, and violated the right to family integrity and parents’ substantive due process rights. Moreover, the policy made a mockery of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition to denying children their fundamental rights, the government sought to deter immigrants and coerce asylum-seekers into relinquishing their claims to protection. The chapter also traces the policy’s origins through an analysis of restrictionist interest groups’ discursive strategies. For years, anti-immigration hardliners had argued that child-protection policies and “loopholes” in asylum law had incentivized unauthorized migration from Central American countries. High-level government officials in the Trump administration deployed similar discourses and implemented dozens of punitive policies targeting families and children from the region

in Children’s rights in crisis
Daniel Ogunniyi

Although child trafficking has attracted growing interests within academic and political circles in recent years, many studies have ascribed the phenomenon to cultural factors and the poverty rhetoric in developing countries. These dominant approaches typically ignore other factors, including the institutional and global forces that reinforce the phenomenon. In principle, child trafficking and the violation of children’s dignity manifest themselves disproportionately in West Africa compared to other regions in Africa where fewer victims have been detected. Although the CRC prohibits child trafficking and other exploitative forms, implementation of the treaty has been fraught with many challenges in West Africa. This chapter examines some of the challenges of implementing the CRC in the region focusing specifically on child trafficking as evidence of a wider problem confronting children. One of the central arguments of this chapter is that while systemic and other local factors could be identified for the continued challenge of child trafficking in West Africa, the present economic configurations of the world cannot be exempted completely for their roles in perpetuating the crisis. The study engages with the linkages between neoliberal policies from global institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and child trafficking in West Africa. The chapter contextualises the problem at regional and country levels (Gambia and Benin Republic) and makes specific recommendations to address the challenge in the region.

in Children’s rights in crisis
Shani King

In the United States, debates over mask-wearing mandates for children in schools became a politically and socially explosive topic over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a few states, laws or executive orders have prohibited individual cities and schools from establishing mask mandates. Lawsuits and attempted federal interventions have followed. However, given that education is primarily a state responsibility in the United States, federal ability to intervene is limited. While the United States has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the debates around school mask use highlight the challenges around incorporating rights protected under the CRC in a federalist context where responsibilities for educational policy are highly devolved. This chapter considers how the CRC can inform mask mandate debates in the United States, bringing an international perspective to the legal questions around federalism and educational policy in the U.S. It also considers how the experience of the United States can inform interpretation of the CRC and forecast challenges in implementing the CRC in the coming decade.

in Children’s rights in crisis
Multidisciplinary, transnational, and comparative perspectives

More than three decades have passed since the United Nations' adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, yet children's rights and dignity still confront profound challenges worldwide. This book delves deep into this complex issue, meticulously examining the causes and consequences of contemporary crises in children's rights and welfare. Distinguishing itself from conventional literature and public discourse on human rights, this multidisciplinary volume offers an unparalleled global and interdisciplinary perspective. It defies traditional disciplinary boundaries, embracing an analytically eclectic and interdisciplinary approach to comprehending the intricate challenges faced by children today. This book wholeheartedly acknowledges that the issues affecting children are intricately interwoven within an intricate web of social, cultural, and historical factors, thereby requiring a holistic and problem-centric viewpoint. Far from the mainstream narrative, this anthology spotlights the frequently overlooked crises in children's rights, bringing to light those thematic and policy blind spots that have languished in obscurity. It champions an unyielding global and transnational outlook, recognizing that the contemporary predicaments confronting children are not solely products of local or national influences but are profoundly shaped by the forces and interactions of a global scale. This book uniquely contributes to children's rights scholarship by exploring children's rights and dignity through a broader lens, emphasizing the impact of politics, culture, social conflicts, and geographic variations. This timely and indispensable work serves as an invaluable resource for scholars, policymakers, and advocates dedicated to advancing the cause of children's rights on the grand stage of global governance.

Dignity under siege in armed conflict
Salvador Santino F. Regilme
Elisabetta Spoldi

Despite the consolidated body of public international law on children’s rights and armed conflict, why do armed rebel groups and state forces deploy children in armed conflict, particularly in Somalia? First, due to the lack of alternative sources of income and livelihood beyond armed conflict, children join the army due to coercive recruitment by commanders of armed groups. Their participation in armed conflict generates a fleeting and false sense of material security and belongingness in a group. Second, many Somali children were born in an environment of existential violence and material insecurity that normalized and routinized violence, thereby motivating them to view enlistment in armed conflict as morally permissible and necessary for existential survival.

in Children’s rights in crisis
The fight for children’s access to comprehensive sexual education
Paola Fajardo-Heyward

The Convention on the Rights of the Child highlights states’ obligation to guarantee the right to health, to non-discrimination, to education, and to information. States’ efforts at providing a specific type of education, sexuality education, have encountered several challenges. According to UNESCO, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is “a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality.” Norms on children’s right to sexuality education have advanced at the global level, yet states’ adoption of CSE remains uneven. Recently, the movement Con Mis Hijos no te Metas – Leave my kids alone (CMHNTM), a transnational network of conservative and religious groups, has orchestrated a successful campaign against CSE in Latin America. What explains its success? I argue that the power of this actor is derived from two conditions: its strategic connections with both the population and key members of the political elite, and the use of the term gender ideology to generate moral panic about CSE. These two conditions help understand the way in which this movement has controlled the political debate about CSE, eroding the actions of children’s rights advocates. This argument is illustrated with a case study on Colombia, a country with a large history of sexual education programs. The chapter documents a troublesome pattern of transnational activism that is creating barriers for children’s right to information, their autonomy, and ultimately, their dignity.

in Children’s rights in crisis
Children’s rights during the COVID-19 pandemic
Pantea Javidan

This chapter examines the causes and consequences of the current crisis in children’s rights during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically how and why children’s fundamental rights to life, health, and safety are besieged in the context of education and schooling. It scrutinizes the laissez-faire pandemic response of minimal mitigations in comparative global perspective, with the United States exemplifying this model and faring worst among peer nations, alongside the United Kingdom and Sweden. Using an intersectional framework regarding systemic inequities, it analyzes policies regarding school reopenings and pandemic mitigations through a review of relevant news media, surveys, statistical data, and public discourse. The master narrative regarding childhood education during the pandemic has created false divisions and dubious equivalencies between different sets of children’s rights to justify in-person schooling with inadequate mitigations. Political officials, economic elites, contrarian “experts,” and aligned technocrats advanced laissez-faire policy fueled by disinformation campaigns, moral panic, and political violence, to overpower scientific consensus, public opinion, and human rights, which disproportionately harms working-class and racial minority children.

in Children’s rights in crisis
Multidisciplinary and transnational perspectives
Salvador Santino F. Regilme

This introductory chapter sets the stage for a comprehensive and multidisciplinary exploration of the challenges and opportunities in the promotion of children’s rights in the 21st century. In 2023, UNICEF's estimate of over 1.9 billion children worldwide, constituting a significant quarter of the global population, underscores the immense demographic presence of children. Paradoxically, their sheer numbers stand in stark contrast to their vulnerability. Children, by their very nature, are often more susceptible to harm, damage, or abuse compared to adults. This introductory chapter discusses the state of scholarly knowledge about children’s rights and the intended contributions as well as the organizational logic of the volume.

in Children’s rights in crisis
Open Access (free)
The legality (or not) of corporal punishment in schools
Lucy Sorensen
Charmaine N. Willis
Victor Asal
, and
Melissa L. Breger

Despite many mandates against corporal punishment in schools and conclusive evidence that such discipline is physically and psychologically harmful to children’s well-being and dignity – why does the practice continue to flourish and be condoned across most corners of the globe? We address this question with research grounded upon the 1990 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), including 192 nations’ self-reports mandated under the CRC. For our study, we collected information on legal bans on the practice of corporal punishment in schools for 192 countries from 1972 to 2016 and used panel data methods (including a hazard model and two-way fixed effects model) to examine the factors associated with countries adopting bans on corporal punishment in schools. Our findings highlight that the CRC was effective in encouraging the diffusion of corporal punishment bans globally. Yet, it was not enough to end corporal punishment in school systems in most countries. Specifically, we learned that common law countries – those with English legal origin – lagged significantly behind their civil law counterparts in enacting bans. Countries with low levels of female political empowerment also made significantly slower progress towards banning corporal punishment practices during this time period. Our findings suggest that future global efforts to strengthen the human rights, dignity, and empowerment of children may require varied strategies adapted to different legal and political contexts.

in Children’s rights in crisis
The future of accountability
Allyson Bachta

Multiple international conventions, declarations, and principles have codified and claimed that accessing a non-discriminatory, high-quality education free from violent attack is a child’s human right. Yet, there is a major gap between these declared rights and their actual enforcement - current global monitoring systems fail at protecting children from violent attacks and holding perpetrators accountable. Millions of children in conflict-affected regions are actively and passively prevented from accessing their educational rights, and the true impact of conflict on education systems remains unclear. This chapter makes a unique contribution to the global governance of children’s rights, conflict early warning, and “education in emergencies” literature by reimagining how monitoring systems used for other purposes could also be used to protect children from violent attacks on education. It provides a more substantial background on the efforts (and subsequent failings) of the international community in protecting this right; briefly summarises the evolution and codification of these rights; describes the monitoring and accountability structures and processes that exist to accompany them; and reviews the role that NGO stakeholders have recently played in bolstering these responses. Using the Republic of Cameroon as an illustration, the author argues that changes in curriculum and language policies are two potential indicators for academics, practitioners, and citizens to monitor more closely as potential precursors to violent attacks on education.

in Children’s rights in crisis