This is a brief comment reflecting concern and scepticism related to the rights of the child and the concept of “in the best interests of the child”. We are talking of a child who until a certain age does not have a voice at all and, after learning to use his or her voice, is either not heard or is disregarded or overridden by the voices of others such as law makers, parents, NGOs, social workers, teachers and doctors. The child is furthermore surrounded by the values of belief systems, religion, tradition and customs which she or he has not played any part in creating. Where is the child in this? When seemingly deciding in the child's best interests, are the above-mentioned persons and systems not in fact all sacrificing the child?
In issues such as settling custody disputes, child marriages, circumcision of boys and genital mutilation of girls, placement of children in foster homes, the child's right to receive essential education in segregation from the “different”, domestic violence, and even in small matters like dress codes, the child does not have an effective right to develop his or her identity but rather is suffocated, used and abused. If we cast our eyes worldwide, there are other more menacing issues, such as child soldiers, kidnapped children raised for terrorist armies, children sold for gain by their parents, girls sold into forced marriages, child labour, child prostitution, child pornography, and even ritual slaughtering of children. The list appears endless.
It is the authorities that decide on who can foster and be fostered, and who can adopt and be adopted. Even in this context, it is the authorities and not the child who exercise rights. In addition it appears to be the parents’ rights rather than the child's that have priority, as it is the values and beliefs of the parents that determine whether the child is circumcised, which school she or he attends, what she or he may or may not eat.