Children are the future of this world and their protection should be of utmost important. Many international communities have found that there is a necessity to protect children’s rights from abuse and exploitation, which have become a widespread problem left unacknowledged.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has stepped in to a render a decision on the sexual abuse of a nine-year-old schoolgirl, Louise O’Keeffe by a teacher. In the Ireland High Court’s opinion on this matter, the court found that the government was not liable for the child’s safety and abuse that occurred. How could the Court find that the government has no liability for what happens to a child, especially while in the process of receiving an education?
The essential purpose of a government is to protect civilians from conflicts and to supply the country with a sense of order and rules to follow. Finding that children as well as adults had rights worth protecting, the United Nations developed an irrevocable instrument to be accepted by the international community. This document, The Convention on the Rights of the Child, was created to allow overall development for those individuals who do not have the ability to protect themselves.
By signing and ratifying this treaty, countries have agreed to protect four different groups of children’s rights; the right to survival, the right to development, the right to protection and the right to participation. Ireland, who is a State Party to this treaty, has an obligation to protect not only a child’s physical and mental interests but also to provide protection from neglect and discrimination.
The ECHR, acknowledging the importance of children’s rights, reached a determination that Ireland had violated two articles of the European Convention of Human Rights, which both discuss the violation of Louise O’Keefe’s rights. These include the right to due process (Article 13) and the right of protection (Article 3), finding that “the government has an inherent obligation to protect children from ill-treatment..” The fact that child abuse has become a widespread issue, not just within Ireland but in the entire world, calls for the need for more attention to be provided to those who do not have the ability to fight for their rights.
Do you think that Ireland had a duty to protect the nine- year -old child and all other children from facing the same threat? What other means could be implemented to provide more protection to minors?
It is very refreshing to see that positive change is being made in this area. Children’s rights should be taken very seriously, especially because children are vulnerable. Children in many instances cannot help themselves from mistreatment because they are smaller and weaker compared to their adult counterparts. Minors should not be freely manipulated and abused by adults, especially by teachers who should be cultivating their minds instead of physically abusing them like what occurred in this case. The abuse of this nine-year old girl by her teacher must be addressed. The treaty purports to protect four very important rights including the child’s right to survival, the right to development, the right to protection and the right to participation. The treaty should be promulgated and signed by many countries in order to decrease crimes against minors. Ireland in this case, and other countries in general definitely have a duty to protect their citizens, and especially minors who should be afforded extra protections.
As author of the earlier post pertaining to the anticipation of this decision, I am relieved that Ireland is being held liable for two violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. I think it is the government’s prime purpose to protect its citizens, especially the most vulnerable, the children. Ms. O’Keeffe has suffered a great deal of emotional and mental harm. It is only right that justice was served in this case.
Looking forward, I believe that more global awareness and more promulgation of laws needs to be achieved. I agree that children are our future, but even more so, they are the most defenseless and the most innocent. They are the most preyed upon because they cannot protect themselves. I believe harsher punishments should be put in place for child abusers and pedophiles to serve as a deterrence. Thus, it is the continued duty of a government to protect the most susceptible populations.
I agree with the Court in holding that Ireland had violated O’Keefe’s rights. Public schools are funded by the Government of their respective country and the primary purpose of these schools to foster an education for young people in a safe environment and to help them grow into productive adults that contribute to society. By not protecting O’Keefe, the whole purpose of the system is circumvented. Ultimately, the Government has the duty to make sure that their are adequate measures in place to protect the children they are entrusted with. Not only do they have a duty to protect their citizens from outside threats, but also the ones that lurk from within.
The decision by the Court reinforces the notion of protection that the high Court of Ireland seemed to have forgotten. By reminding nations that they have the most serious responsibility to protect the most vulnerable and innocent members of society by adhering to things like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Children that the author mentioned.
Children inhabit a very precarious position in the government, with government’s being unsure where their rights should extend and how they should be developed, while deferring to the rights of the parents and how far they can “rear” their child. I think it is the job of all governments to look at the interests of the citizens and protect them, even in lieu of the rights of other, mainly parental rights, because while we may believe that parent’s know best, sometimes their best does not even meet any cognizable standard. Regardless of parental rights, governments need to take care of their people, including children; otherwise, they will be continually marginalized and left to people who are not equipped( financially, emotionally, mentally or otherwise) to do what is best for their children. Too long children faced destruction and disaster because there are not adequate protections for them in regards to their well being and the government should have a hand in guiding parents and providing children a decent life where they can grow and actually fulfill their potential. If not, they will fall prey to mistreatment and obliteration.
I wholeheartedly agree with the Court’s decision in this case. There was an obvious violation of O’Keefe’s rights here. If this case had turned out otherwise the Court would have been blatantly wrong. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that supports that there was a violation of O’Keefe’s rights. Furthermore, Ireland is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which as stated above was created and ratified “to protect the right to survival, the right to development, the right to protection and the right to participation” of children. Ireland has a duty like every country does to protect O’Keefe and all other children from facing the same threat. In my opinion, children are often overlooked because well they are children. However, this makes them even more vulnerable to different threats, which means they need even more protection. The bottom line is that children are citizens and individuals too. Children have just as many rights and interests as any other person. Therefore, all governments have a duty to protect the rights and interests all of its citizens, which includes children.
I think whether or not Ireland had a duty to protect the child, in this situation, depends on the structure of the school system. I am not aware of the structure and hierarchy of the school-system in Ireland, so it is difficult to say whether or not Ireland-itself had a duty to the child. If this incident took place in the United States, I certainly would not say that the United States had a legal duty to protect that child in a public school. The duty would fall to the city, town, or county who ran the school. Undoubtedly, in the United States the federal government supplies some funding to public schools, but according to the U.S. Department of Education, on average that funding accounts for less than 15 percent of the budget in elementary and secondary education. This amount is not sufficient enough, in my opinion, to give rise to federal liability. The locality is ultimately responsible for operational decisions and implementation. However, federal dollars could certainly be withheld from schools who fail to meet certain federal benchmarks relating to child safety and protection. In the case at issue, Ireland should have set standards for its public schools, taking into account their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. If Ireland was continuing to provide funding to a school who failed to meet these obligations, then liability at the federal level is appropriate. (Also, liability could be appropriate in any instance, if the federal government plays a larger role in public schooling than it does in the US.)
Great Post. Thanks for sharing