Education And Debate

Definitely not legitimate protest, but probably not child abuse either

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 24 February 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:503
  1. Andy Hampson, principal officer, child protectiona
  1. a City of Salford Social Services, Avon House, Little Hulton M38 0LA

    The first question raised in the article is that implied in its title. Should the involvement of children in a hunger strike be regarded as a legitimate form of political protest or does it constitute a form of child abuse?

    In most developed countries child care legislation aims to strike a balance between the rights of families and communities to bring up their children according to their traditional beliefs and values and the duty of the state to protect children and promote their welfare. In child protection the concept of cultural relativism represents an acknowledgement that there is considerable variation in child rearing practices and few universal standards. In most cases this diversity is to be welcomed. There will be occasions, however, when the obligation to respect variations in cultural norms is overridden by a duty to intervene. It is important to be clear about this principle, but it is only marginally relevant to the present case. The participation of the children in the hunger strike does not derive from any fundamental, culturally determined set of beliefs or values, and it is most unlikely that, under normal circumstances, the withholding of food from children would be considered acceptable within …

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