Opinions remain divided over children’s rights

Opinions in Samoa remain divided over the issue of human rights.

While some say the issue of rights, especially in relation to children, is a contributing factor to today’s social problems, others disagree.

The different views surfaced during the Upolu community consultations for the Child Protection Bill.

Mapuinu’u Manaia Lopa’u, of Saleapaga, is among people who say children’s rights are an affront to the fa’asamoa (Samoan way of life).  

 “The Bible says to spank your child to discipline him,” he said. 

“Remember, God knew before he made people that they would be misbehaving, that’s why he said that.

“God gave laws for a reason and in those laws, it did not mention any rights for people to do whatever they want to do.

“In Samoa, we have order. God has already provided Samoa with order and culture. Everyone has a responsibility and they should not overlap. From the highest chief down to a baby, their roles have already been assigned; this is Samoa is made of.

“But now, this order has been lost, it doesn’t exist anymore because of the concept of human rights. This is exactly what has killed Samoa’s founding order and sacredness of the fa’asamoa.”

The 60-year-old said Samoa must be careful in embracing such foreign concepts. He also wants parents to be careful that they don’t abuse children under the guise of disciplining them.

He said there are more ways to do this, including taking the time to talk to them.

 “The laws around rights of a child has had negative effect on the responsibility of parents to teach and discipline their children; the bible says to train your child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

But not everyone shares the same views. While the older generation is quite strong in their view, young people don’t see it that way.

Take Joe Taupau Risati, of Salua Manono, for example.

 “The oldies will always be biased when it comes to these things as it is hard to depart from their old fashioned knowledge as you can tell by their opinions,” he said.

“But reality is, these days we have rights and it’s a clear thing if we understand it. Surely everyone has rights but it doesn’t mean you should neglect the children like how it is usually misunderstood. 

“The lack of awareness and understanding about children’s rights is the reason for these comments.”

Mr. Risati said the key is education.

“Us as youths need to educate ourselves on these rights and once we do, we need to share it with our families and friends; and make sure to say that these rights also come with a responsibility,” he said. 

“But always remember Rome was not built in one day, you should keep sharing and keep knocking believing one day they will understand, and that’s why the youth needs to fully understand it.”

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