Article by: Junior Alexis Sanchez Prado (UWC AC ’14 – ’16)
Thousand times I have heard that children cannot have proper opinions (because they are not mature enough). Thousand times I have been witness to the repercussion of police forces towards children labourer, especially when they are working on the street. Thousand times, I might say million times, I have seen children protesting for their recognition as citizens.
In Peru, the Code on Children and Adolescents continues to be debated even though the Peruvian Congress has created a “Commission of experts” in 2012 to analyse this Code and make it better in a short time. Although those “experts” have made a new proposal of Code (with interesting changes by the way), still there is lack of understanding from the Congressmen whom made it. It is because their proposal seems to be the proof that those “knowledgeable people” do not know anything about Children rights and, I can even assume, that they have not read the Convention on the Rights of the Child- CRC, which was written in November 1989.
But, why am I making these assumptions? This commission has, after “further analysis”, modified some articles of the Children Code of 2011. One of the controversial changes that this “Human Rights” commission has made appears in the article 13. It specifies that children can express their opinions and thoughts under their parent’s supervision. I wonder, what will happen when I and my parents have different opinions? Does it mean that I have to accept what my parents think and say although I disagree?
According to the article 12 of the CRC, children have the right to say whatever they want as long as they don’t offend other people. That means that children can express their opinions in different places and with different people: With the family, at school, with friends and in public. Consequently, there is no limit for the participation of Children.
“1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child”.
(Article 12, CRC)
Going back to the history of the law, Peruvian children started organising themselves already before the Convention on the Rights of the Child was created. Some organisations fighting for the rights of children were led by children. Examples are REDNNA (Red Nacional de Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes, in Spanish) and MNNATSOP (Movimiento Nacional de Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes Trabajadores Organizados del Perú). These child organizations have been working towards the recognition of children as part of the society and their inclusion into policymaking processes.
How is it possible? – That’s the question that you, especially if you are an adult, might be asking yourself now.
On the other hand, the new Code only gives Sexual Education to people over 15 years. According to recent investigations, teenage pregnancy rates have increased considerably over the last five years. Iquitos and Madre de Dios (both belong to the Peruvian jungle) are the cities with most cases. The question is: Do politicians want to increase the population even when the conditions are not favourable for people living in those cities? Perhaps yes.
To conclude, if the government wants to improve the Code of Children and Teenagers, I think it is essential to listen to children and to take their opinion into consideration. Children are the architects of a better future. They are not the issue, they are part of the solution. Listening to children could became one of the best ways to change our world.
“What is good for Children is better for humanity”