This is one of those questions that has been rooting around in my head for a while. It’s also part of a larger series of questions. But I think we can’t get to those until we get through with this one. I suppose the first thing we’ll start with is the notion of statute of limitations. Specifically that of crimes.
A statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. Most lawsuits MUST be filed within a certain amount of time. In general, once the statute of limitations on a case “runs out,” the legal claim is not valid any longer. – www.courts.ca.gov/9618.htm
The notion with a statute of limitations is that even though you may have committed a crime against someone else a long time ago that person is still a person now. They are still impacted by what you have done and thus you shouldn’t be absolved of your acts just because you got away with it before. A person is a continuous entity that deserves protections from old crimes. It’s a fairly accepted system and I don’t think most people argue that it should exist.
If I were to cut off your ear lobes today and nobody caught me for a year and a half I’d still be taken to court once I was brought in. Even though you are now older, presumably wiser, and maybe I’ve changed how I feel and how I act. Unfortunately a change to your younger self has permanently altered you, in these cases it is in a way that you likely didn’t want. Ear lobes are nice, best to keep them.
I can’t force any adult to do anything. The most I can do is put systems in place that will motivate people to act in one way or another. Many decisions parents make for their children result in life long damage. They occur at a time when children are not knowledgeable enough to protest (in many cases) so where is the statute of limitations? If you endanger your child for nearly two decades and they only realize it in adulthood should you be let off?
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.
Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law , general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups. – http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights.aspx
I’ve highlighted the most important part there. Humans are humans regardless of their gender, place of birth, melanin content, faith, or anything else. Each and every one of us deserves protections. Protections from abuse, neglect, and all other negative aspects of humanity. However there is one place where this protection does not appear to exist, or at least it exists in a peculiar quantum state.
As a parent I am not allowed to bludgeon my children to death. This is a good thing, I shouldn’t be doing this. But depending on the abuse that I will be exchanging upon my child, regardless of the intent of that abuse, I might be able to get away with it. Certain kinds of child endangerment are acceptable. You can’t leave your child outside, something that has no serious danger associated with it (crimes of basically all fashions are on the decline in the world, after all), but I could choose to deny my child all sorts of medical care which could lead to their death.
And this is where my rub is. I couldn’t do this to another adult in almost any situation. I can’t tell my wife that she’s not allowed to get a transfusion. I couldn’t take her in for cosmetic surgery against her wishes. I couldn’t force her to eat nothing but candy and drink nothing but soda.
There is a peculiar and unfounded presumption that someone becomes an expert in biology because they’ve reproduced. It makes less than no sense to me because reproduction is about as difficult as sneezing. We have been relentlessly trying to find ways to wiggle our waggles without making babies, its an ever present battle with our remarkable fertility. A parent knows absolutely nothing about how to keep their child healthy unless they’ve actually been trained in keeping children healthy. Just like you don’t become a Parasitologist because you’ve contracted tube worms.
If it isn’t acceptable for me to abuse other adults why is it acceptable for me to abuse young people? Me in the abstract, mind. Are young people not human? Do we consider the block of life before 18 to be entirely separate from the block of life following it? How does this jive with the reality that your biology is a continuum and those decisions will follow you for the rest of your life. Does the right of the parent ever triumph the rights of the child? If it does then clearly children do not have human rights. Because there is no exception to the rights of a human to be safe from harm, intentional or not.
If it doesn’t then we need to rethink how we approach child safety and health. Perhaps first by not calling it child safety but “human safety”. Much like gay marriage is just marriage, perhaps a human is just a human. Not young, middle aged, or old, but a continuous autonomous being that should be protected with the full extent of knowledge of the human race. Not merely the singular biases and ignorances of those with the ability to procreate.
[I know the natural response is that “you’ll understand when you are a parent.” But I think that’s similar to saying “you’ll believe too once you’ve drank the punch.” I recently got a car, that doesn’t make me a mechanic. There is no skill involved with creating a human. If procreation was a honed skill we’d not have planned parenthood.]