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Sat, Feb 19, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Social groups unite for children's rights

WELFARE Social activists say that joining an international children's rights convention will force the government to legally protect children from abuse

By Irene Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Citing what they say is government apathy over a decline in children's welfare in Taiwan, a coalition of more than 10 social groups took the initiative yesterday to form an association to campaign for child protection legislation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"Reports have shown some of our children are living in very poor conditions. Unfortunately, we have a government which won't act on matters unless forced to," said DPP legislator Lai Chin-lin (賴勁麟), also the president of the Taiwan Children's Rights Association (台灣兒童人 協會), at the formation of the association yesterday.

"Elections are always the best opportunity to obtain promises. And we're glad to announce it worked well for us, as we've had four of the five presidential candidates sign in support of our campaign," he said.

Following its formation yesterday, the association, composed of 12 social activist groups, will first ask both the executive and legislative branches of the government to support the campaign.

Another important objective of the league is to increase awareness of children rights nationwide. Many parents still treat their children as "property" and feel justified in dictating their children's fates, activists say.

Previous studies, from 1997 to 1999, have shown that children's rights in Taiwan have failed to meet minimum international standards.

Child abuse, the reports indicated, is a major contributor to the poor assessments.

"Nearly every month, at least two children are killed by their parents due to a deteriorating marriage, unemployment, or financial difficulties. It's the parents who wanted to die and end their pain, but they take their innocent children with them," said Ku Yu-chen (顧玉珍), secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (台灣人 促進會).

"Every child is an individual and is entitled to their own rights. Sadly, most of the parents are not aware of that, and apparently our government hasn't tried hard enough to make it known," Ku said.

Serena Wu (陳莉茵), deputy executive director of the Taiwan Foundation for Rare Disorders (罕見疾病基金會), used her own case to remind all parents to respect inherent rights of their children.

"I was a mother who once tried to kill my own child and myself," Wu said, recalling her painful decision 11 years ago, when she felt suicidal over the near-incurable illness of her then four-year-old son.

"At that moment, I couldn't bear seeing him -- and probably myself, too -- suffer anymore, so I tried to end our lives by jumping off a building," Wu said.

"But it was at that very moment that it struck me I had no right to make that decision, because it was me who wanted to die, not my little boy, who still wanted to live on."

Since being adopted by the UN in 1989, the Convention of the Rights of the Child has been ratified by more than 191 member states. In addition, some countries which are not UN members have also joined the international convention dedicated to every child under the age of 18.

Aware of Taiwan's pariah international status, the social activists have also considered possible obstacles standing in the way of the country's efforts to join the international organ, of which China is also a member.

Unfazed by the difficulties they may face, the association dpe not expect to encounter the kind of hostility Taiwan has faced in its bid for full membership in the UN.

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