Child rights lawyer
The Federal Government wants to anchor children's rights in the Basic Law. Legal professor Friederike Wapler thinks this is a rather annoying idea.
taz: Ms. Wapler, child protectionists have been calling for children's rights to be anchored in the Basic Law for decades. Now something is finally happening. A reason for great joy?
Friederike Wapler: No. I find the demand for children's rights in the Basic Law rather annoying. Because the Basic Law is shown as deficit, although it is not at all. At times when populists questioning our whole order, should one not unnecessarily devalue the Basic Law.
But where are the children's rights in our constitution?
Every fundamental right naturally also applies to children, for example human dignity, the right to physical integrity and the right to free development of personality. You don't have to mention that. In addition, the Federal Constitutional Court has been interpreting fundamental rights in a child-friendly manner for decades.
Why do associations such as Unicef and the Children's Fund still drum for children's rights in the Basic Law?
I ask myself the same thing. Maybe because they hope for a symbolic success? The demand is quite popular, and a change in the Basic Law does not cost anything. But it is striking that these associations no longer promise any major changes, but only want to “make children's rights visible”.
Is it bad? One can speak better about children's rights at school if there are concrete, quotable sentences in the Basic Law.
I believe that students are able to understand that all fundamental rights also apply to children.
The Social Democratic Federal Minister of Justice Christine Lambrecht proposes the following wording: "Every child has the right to respect, protection and promotion of their fundamental rights, including their right to develop into a responsible person in the social community." Doesn't that sound good?
This is constitutional poetry that doesn't change anything.
Proponents of children's rights in the Basic Law also refer to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
This important convention has been law in Germany since 1990. It does not specify the constitution.
If children's rights are primarily symbolic in the Basic Law, why did it take so long to enforce them?
Because, above all, the CDU / CSU is very concerned that something could change, especially that this will reduce parental rights. That is why Justice Minister Lambrecht emphasizes that her draft does not change the relationship between children and parents in any way. The Greens and Linker bills also do not want to change this.
is Professor of Legal Philosophy and Public Law at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The topic of children's rights is one of her main research areas
Do you think that's right? Shouldn't children be strengthened against violent and cruel parents?
The Basic Law already gives the state a so-called guardian office for such cases. I think that's enough. Strengthening children's rights against parents would ultimately not strengthen children, but the state, which could then intervene more easily in families.
When children are beaten to death or on the Internet at abuse offered, this shows how much more state control is necessary.
The instruments are already available today. If the child's welfare is endangered, the youth welfare office can take the child out of the family and place it in a foster family or in the home. Wrong decisions are made again and again – which can sometimes only be recognized afterwards – but a change in the Basic Law would not change anything.
The youth welfare offices and family courts are afraid that parents will turn to the Federal Constitutional Court and appeal there to their parents' rights. After all, Karlsruhe has repeatedly complained in recent years that children have been taken from families.
However, these were usually cases in which the child's welfare was not at risk and youth welfare offices for wrong reasons had intervened. It is not the task of the youth welfare offices to provide children with what is supposed to be an optimal education.
Because most parents are not perfect. But they love their children and want the best for them. Therefore, it is usually best for children if they grow up with their parents of origin and the state only intervenes if the development of the child is endangered. In my opinion, nothing should really change.
Isn't the idea in need of correction that children who have been taken into good care by the state should generally return to their family of origin?
No, here too the principle applies that growing up with your own parents is usually best for a child. However, the state should work more with the families of origin so that the children can return as early as possible.
And if a child has settled in well with a foster family for years, isn't it traumatic if it is torn out of there so that it can return to its parents of origin?
In such cases, solutions can often be found today if separation from the foster family could pose a new risk to the wellbeing of children. And if you want to shift the weights between foster parents and parents of origin here, then the youth welfare law would have to be changed. The Basic Law is not the right place for such fine control.
Where do you see approaches to better protect children?
I think the state can do a lot to empower children without intervening in families. This has to do primarily with resources. The state can offer attractive all-day schools. He can reasonably pay kindergarten teachers, and he can prevent the leisure facilities of children and young people from being closed, such as swimming pools, youth centers and libraries.
Nice and good. But how does this help children who are at risk in their families?
If children outside the family receive a variety of suggestions, they will be strengthened in their development and can better compensate for problems in the family. You may also find people whom you can trust.
Isn't it easier to get money for all of these projects when children's rights are in the Basic Law?
I do not believe that. Prioritization in government budgets is not a legal question, but a political one. Even if children's rights are set out in the Basic Law, one has to campaign politically for corresponding expenditures. It would be downright dangerous if people believed that everything would happen by itself.
Would you prefer to not include children's rights in the Basic Law?
Answer: yes. I see no benefit, but the risk that this will lead to legal uncertainty – because then it would be debated for years whether the new wording really has no meaning.