By Michel Seyrat
The International Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the UN, in 1989, includes several articles on the right to avoid abuse by adults or other children. Knocks, insults, forced labor, sexual abuse, prostitution, abandonment and carelessness are nevertheless still the lot of many children in the world.
Fighting against this unforgivable violence is an essential commitment to which many bodies contribute, but the goal still remains far away. The Indaba-Network can support all innovative projects in this domain.
To be born is to become a human being
Everything that takes place does so as if we had difficulty in getting rid of the notion that a child is still not a complete human being, as if his or her “physical incompleteness” decreases his or her humanity. But humanity is not attached to size, age, or level of knowledge! Given this misunderstanding, the state of weakness or dependence of the child may lead to a relationship of power, of domination, which can be translated into his or her abuse at the hand of older children and/or adults.
Guilty child and abused child
Some indeed conceptualize education as essentially the “training” of an imperfect, even perverse, being, whose bad tendencies need to be corrected. Not long ago, this conceptualization dominated in some institutions, even in schools which specialize in taking in children whom life has manhandled. Those who always consider a child as a culprit for still not being grown-up believe that they have the duty to punish him for that! From the guilty child to the abused child is just a step.
It is not a question of preaching an education with neither prohibition nor constraint, but to promote an education which recognizes the child as a human being whom we help to grow in humanity, who is to become a freer, more responsible individual—capable of recognizing the ‘rule of rules’ which consists of seeing always the other as a human brother.
King-child and slave-child
Some parents, thinking they are on the right path, invest so much in their child that they transform him into a ” king-child” – a domestic tyrant! We know that this is a very bad child rearing pattern because the child becomes a slave of his uncontrolled drives. He cannot wait before getting what he desires, and he cannot make an effort in order to reach it by himself. The habit of tyrannizing one’s circle of acquaintances risks being continued. Not teaching the child the meaning of living is a kind of deferred ill-treatment because he will always be, as my grandmother said, “never satisfied”. Conversely, to take advantage of the weakness and the dependence of the child, to force him to do things “which are not for children his age” or which he cannot want freely, constitutes a constraint which can be close to slavery: hard labor, blackmail, ragging, involvement incriminal acts, forced juvenile marriages, “ritual” mutilations, incest, etc.
“Closed” upbringings often lead to immature individuals who are adults physically but not psychologically. Looking for sexual relations with children, for example, is a sign of a psychological and emotional development which has not reached adulthood and which conceptualizes sexuality only in its infantile or adolescent fantasies. As the dominant status of the adult is often present, the “acting out” is facilitated.
But this kind of abuse is not the only one. There are subtler ways to deceive children, to make them the toys of one’s drives, of one’s immaturity, of one’s perversity.
Acting in favor of children is to declare in time and out of time that every child is firstly and fully a human being and that any attitude towards him/her has to be inspired by this fundamental law.