Children Rights in the Bill of Rights?
As a country, embarking on constitutional reform is always a daunting task. Some have even said that very little is likely to change. It is perhaps timely that we are now celebrating the International Month of the Child in the Cayman Islands so that we may as a country discuss how we can take bold steps to make a real difference and ensure that the rights of our children are protected in our constitution.
The international community has accepted that to have a modernized constitution, a Bill of Human Rights must be contained therein. Many developing countries have as a foundation to their Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948.
Whilst these fundamental rights have stood the test of time these rights are first generation Civil and Political rights which were established over fifty years ago.
Is it now time that we include rights that affect more than our civil and political rights such as rights of our children and future generations to come?
Some developing countries have already taken this bold step and have included in their constitutions what is termed second generation rights which are those rights that are connected to the social and economic features of life.
South Africa is one of the very few countries in the world that has incorporated into its Bill of Rights a section specifically dedicated to “Children”.
The philosophy behind this move is that children need special protection because they are among the most vulnerable members of society. They are dependent on their parents and families or the state for care and protection when all else fails. Therefore, the best interest of a child must be the overriding concern when it comes to matters affecting him or her.
Section 28 of the South Africa Bill of Rights enshrines child rights to basic nutrition, shelter, health care, social services, parental or family care. The child’s individual right to legal representation in civil proceedings is also an enshrined right in recognition of the fact that that the voice of the child must be represented in matters that will affect their daily life.
Whilst the Cayman Islands have in place measures to protect children are we doing enough? Have we, over time, been operating at a standard as envisioned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and if not, what recourse is there for children and parents to ensure that children’s rights are protected in our islands for generations to come?
In November 2006, the Government of Ireland announced its intention to hold a constitutional referendum with a view to putting second generation children rights in a central place in its Constitution.
We the people of the Cayman Islands now have an opportunity to advocate for a modernized constitution. Making a constitution that fits the values of these islands would give us the opportunity to adopt rights for our children, and other rights that reflect our identity and aspirations.
Last Updated: 2007-07-03