Are Children Subject to Age Discrimination?

How is it that a child have the right to drink, drive and vote at the age of 16 in one country, but not in another?

The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child consider all children to be equal. According to the Convention parents, or the legal guardians, have the responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. In some areas this means that the parents make decisions on behalf of the child.

However, national rules and regulations determine when and on what policy area a child is fit to make its own decisions. Despite the notion of equality established in the Convention, the age limits differ substantially on different policy areas across the world:

In Norway a child can determine its religious belief at the age of 15, while in California the age limit is set at 18. The age of sexual consent in both Germany and Portugal is 14, whereas in Ireland it is 17 and Norway 16. However, to participate in political elections typically the voting age 18 years old.

This raises the questions as to how these regulations are reasoned and justified. Is age as a marker for young peoples competency and ability in accordance with cultural and ethical values in our society, or is the time ripe for us to re-think the age limits and the difference between children and adults?

This debate will draw attention to the meaning of self-determination for children and adolescents. We will discuss the different laws and rules that regulates self-determination, and if and how these are weighted against the protection and upbringing of children and assessments of their competences.

Join us at Litteraturhuset (the Alver Room) on April 3 at 19:00!

The debate will be held in English.

Philosophy Professor at Queen’s University, Belfast, David Archard

Associate Professor in Law at University of Waikato, Claire Breen

Political advisor from the Norwegian Children and Youth Council, Andreas

Political Scientist Professor at UiB, Steering Committee Member at Centre on Law
and Social Transformation, and Coordinator for the Child Rights Unit,
Marit Skivenes

Law Professor at the University of Bergen, Karl Harald Søvig