Freedom and Children's Rights

See The McCann Files archive:  Gonçalo Amaral - The Interviews (July '08)

Freedom and Children's Rights
25 April 2009
Correio da Manhã
Matter of fact
Gonçalo Amaral
25 April 2009
Thanks to Joana Morais for translation and addendum

In a time of carnations and odes to freedom, we can not forget how much is still left to do, namely in the protection of children. The criminal law does not protect children, they are being left to sleep alone, while the parents get drunk at social gatherings, falling from windows and balconies like ripe fruit, or drying inside vehicles without the according penal sanction occurring.

When the main source of risk and danger is inside the home or the family, the law seems to forget a fundamental right of the child: security.

The UN Declaration on Children's Rights is clear: "The child should grow supported by parents and under their responsibility, in an environment of affection and security."

The crime of abandonment or exposure is inadequate, one should criminalize the mere negligence in custody in order to recognize and safeguard the children's right to safety. Then, there would be no more doubts about the scope of the application of the criminal law, thus preventing relaxed tourists from abandoning our country, without any consequences, after neglecting the custody of their children, night after night, and now walking freely around the media stages.


1 in Declaration of the Rights of the Child Principle 6

The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother. Society and the public authorities shall have the duty to extend particular care to children without a family and to those without adequate means of support. Payment of State and other assistance towards the maintenance of children of large families is desirable.

2 Gonçalo Amaral refers to Article 138 of the Portuguese Penal Code, which covers the crimes of exposure or abandonment. Portuguese law only punishes exposure or abandonment if intent exists, i.e. it has to be proved that the caretaker was aware of the danger that the person under his/her vigilance was subject to. In practical terms, this annihilates any possibility of a criminal accusation when 'simple' neglect takes place.

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