Children’s rights to participate in social activities and to freedom of expression should not be repressed, the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families said yesterday, after a survey showed that 70 percent of junior and senior-high school students felt they are unable to make a difference in society because they are not free to speak out.
Ahead of Children’s Rights Day, which is celebrated annually on Nov. 20, the group published the survey which showed that a majority of Taiwanese children and teenagers felt they had been deprived of the opportunity to express themselves at home, at school and in society.
“There is a Taiwanese saying that children should ‘have only ears, but not mouths’ to deter children from asking questions or expressing their views. However, these silent children will one day become adults,” said Chou Ming-chuan (周明泉), the fund’s deputy executive director.
The survey showed that 15.8 percent of more than 1,000 junior and senior-high school students polled nationwide said they are not completely free to express their own views at home, 21.5 percent at school and 44.2 percent in society in general.
A total of “40.6 percent said they are not able to, or not sure whether they can, express their opinion without being interrupted at home, 58 percent in school and 70.5 percent in society,” said Eva Wei (魏季李), director of the fund’s research and development division.
Article 12, Paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child “assures to every child capable of forming his or her own views, the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child,” Wei said, adding that when the nation’s future leaders are kept out of social activities and feel discouraged by the belief that they are not influential in the decisionmaking processes at different levels, they would not grow into the engaged citizens needed by a mature civil society.
Three teenagers were invited to the press conference to voice their demand for the right to express themselves and participate in society. A girl from Matsu said she had publicly expressed her opinion against setting up a casino on the outlying island and also opposes nuclear power.
When asked whether she had ever been told off or come under pressure for speaking out, she said yes, but “that’s OK because I was just offering my opinion for your reference.”
“You might not agree with me, but it’s just another way of looking at the matter,” the girl nicknamed Lan said.