Washington International Law Journal


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first binding treaty to endorse children's rights as separate from both adults and the family, and is thus an important step in international law toward recognition of children as rights bearers. An inquiry into the extent to which children enjoy human rights logically begins with Article 19 of the Convention which guarantees a child's right to freedom from abuse and neglect by any party. While most literature in this area concentrates either on the rights guaranteed by the Convention or issues raised by studying child abuse across cultures, this Comment incorporates elements of both approaches into its analysis. Examination of the child abuse statutes and relevant policies of Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Indonesia reveals that child maltreatment is particularly influenced by cultural relativism. This analysis further indicates that cultural attitudes, a government's regulatory strength within the familial context, and economic prosperity all contribute to obscure the fine line between child abuse and child discipline. Consequently, a full realization of the benefits guaranteed by Article 19 in these four countries may not be achieved until children are understood as rights bearers within the family as well as in society.

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