2. Children, Youth and Democratic Suffrage in a Globalization Era
2.1. Children’s Suffrage and its Social Effects (Concept-1)
Concept-1, which highlights the ideology1 of children’s suffrage on the basis of postpluralist tetrasociological theory, does not in the least claim to cover exhaustively the problems of children and children's welfare in the modern global world, -- such coverage lies within the purview of international and national information sources. The concept attempts to propose a single, albeit, in our view, the most effective, mechanism for improving children's welfare and solving children's problems in the new century, -- namely, children’s suffrage exercised by children's parents or legal guardians. The aim of the concept is to demonstrate this. The concept analyzes the social, political and moral necessity of children’s suffrage, and its connections with the constitutional and electoral law in general. The concept outlines the fundamentals of children’s suffrage, its main provisions and an appropriate political mechanism for the urgent and systemic handling of children's problems. The concept outlines a spectrum of the positive effects the law may have on all societal strata, and social obstacles to its adoption. The concept defines theoretical, or, mo re precisely, tetrasociological foundations of children’s suffrage and provides relevant statistics and facts. The second part (Concept-2) outlines main parameters and hypotheses for an international, comparative sociological study of attitudes toward the bill of parents and guardians, as key actors (subjects) of children’s suffrage.
Keywords: children’s suffrage as exercised by their parents or guardians; children’s suffrage law; child's vote.
The importance and welfare of children in the world. UN and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Children's importance for society is reflected in an old adage "children are our future." Everything in society -- people, culture, politics, economics -- depends on what becomes of children. The quality of children’s lives determines the quality of society's future, its people, culture, politics, and economics. Children are the beginning of everything. This is an axiom. It reflects the vital importance of children for society's future. But the future originates from and is being shaped today. one would assume that because of this, society is to give primary consideration to the situation and welfare of children today and put it at the top of the agenda. However, obviously, children are not a primary concern. Children remain a low-priority issue for governments and linger in the backyard of society. The most authoritative international documents confirm this.
For instance, the UN Special Session on children (May 2002), initiated by UNICEF and attended by 180 States, arrived at the following distressing conclusions . The final Declaration of the Session pointed out that the current tendencies for economic globalization have resulted in the "deterioration of the situation of the young generation." This was underscored by the following figures: "More than 10 million children die each year although most of those deaths could be prevented; 100 million children are still out of school, 60 per cent of them girls; 150 million children suffer from malnutrition; and HIV/AIDS is spreading with catastrophic speed." "So far we have failed to combat poverty, discrimination and society's neglect of children . Investments into social welfare are still insufficient. The childhood of millions continues to be devastated by hazardous and exploitative labour; the sale and trafficking of children, including adolescents, and other forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence." Faced with these facts, the UN Special Session called upon "all members of society" to join the "global movement that will help build a world fit for children"2 (italics added). So, it is indirectly acknowledged that the world we have is unfit for children.
We witness the same situation with the principle implied in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child -- "for children - the best," which means that so far children have not at all been getting the best things. This foundational international document emphasizes children's paramount importance, their right to special care, special safeguards, to the maximum extent, the best possible maintenance, etc. Here we quote some provisions of the Convention. "Childhood is entitled to special care and assistance" (Preamble). "The child... should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding " (Preamble). "The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection" (Preamble). "In all actions concerning children... the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration" (Article 3.1). "States Parties... shall undertake such measures (for realizing children's rights--L.S.) to the maximum extent of their available resources" (Article 4). "The best interests of the child will be their (parents or legal guardians--L.S.) basic concern" (Article 18) 3, etc (italics added).
But in reality children often not only don't get things "best," "special," "to the maximum extent," but they don't get even the most basic things. So why aren't children put at the top of the agenda? Why are children's problems, to which different nations attach varying degrees of importance, NOT becoming a high-priority issue even in the most prosperous countries? Why is it that "poverty, discrimination and society's neglect of children" have persisted over the centuries? From a systemic viewpoint, what accounts for it is the age qualification set for children in election legislation, which prevents the contemporary democracy from creating a political mechanism for monitoring and handling children's problems. Care that children receive from their families and the state is obviously insufficient for eliminating "poverty, discrimination and society's neglect children."4
Care for children provided by families, society and the state
As is evidenced by the statistics and facts, both in poor and rich countries (see below), care provided for children (and the children's sphere) by families, society and governments is insufficient. The children's sphere is the most important section of the social sphere, because of its function of population reproduction. It embraces from 20 to 35% of the population under the age of 18 (majority) in different countries of the world. The children's sphere encompasses all the factors and resources of childhood: family, birth and mortality rates, pre-school education, school-level education, child healthcare, children's leisure, children's sports, etc. It encompasses the problems of the child: pre- school and school upbringing and education, obstetric s and healthcare, birth and mortality rates, summer vacationing, leisure and sports, orphanhood, homelessness, drugs, crime, prostitution, labor of children under age 14, etc. In all countries, children's problems have a tendency to grow and become more exacerbated. Families and the state today fail to satisfactorily handle children's problems by old, traditional means. In the modern, post-industrial world the family, the child and the state have changed cardinally, while the methods and mechanisms of handling children's problems, and the importance attached to them, remain the same as centuries ago.
Politically, children are relegated to the back yard and form a big political "black hole." In legislative organs, children's interests are not represented by deputies who are accountable to children. Children have families to care for them, but the means of the families are very limited, which is evidenced by a growth of juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, prostitution, sickness rates, homelessness, etc. Families fail to handle these problems, and so one is led to believe that children are deprived of adequate care by society and the state. So, children remain in fact the population's most marginal social group, which results in an accumulation and exacerbation of social problems, and worsens the quality of life for populations and individuals. The more marginal children are, the more inferior their quality of life is, the more marginal the future of humankind and of individual countries is bound to become. The quality of population depends on the quality of children's upbringing, education and health, for which families, society, and the stat e become increasingly responsible. An especially large share of the responsibility is incumbent on the state, given its wealth of resources for handling children's problems.
Children's problems: how the state handles it
Unfortunately, not a single nation in the world today places children's problems in the forefront. Economic and military problems continue to dominate. This has been a strategy of industrial societies over the last two centuries. However, in the second half of the 20th century the developed countries started to promote a slogan of "social state," "social democracy," meaning that social problems are receiving primary consideration. However, in fact, even in these countries the situation remains the same, and not a single nation regards children's problem s as a high-priority issue. Nearly all nations continue to handle children's problems through the traditional mechanism of residual federal financing. This mechanism has been especially typical for the former Soviet republics, and especially for Russia. The current strategy is to give an overwhelming priority to economics, which results in a residual financing for the children's sphere. Conversely, giving priority to the children's sphere is overwhelmingly a strategy of the future. Nations today prefer the strategy of today, rather than the strategy of the future, which leads to an aggravation of children's problems and a crisis for society. The state presently does not have an efficient instrument for solving children's problems. The state directs its efforts to the consequences, rather than to the causes, of child problems. Why has such a strategy prevailed? Because the democratic election process inherited from industrial society, is seriously flawed. The present concept sets forth a thesis that children’s suffrage, exercised by parents and legal guardians, is an efficient instrument for eliminating this flaw and an effective tool for handling children's problems at the state level. Children’s suffrage and its fulfilment will legitimise top-priority financing for the children's sphere and will direct a democratic government's efforts to the causes, not the consequences, of children's problems, which will put a long-term strategy for the future at the top of the government's agenda.
The history of suffrage: The age qualification as a political cause of "poverty, discrimination and society's neglect of children"
The history of suffrage has been diffusive: wealthy adult males were the first to get the vote, eventually all adult males, then women, then the young over the age of 18. Modern suffrage is a legacy from a disappearing industrial society. For more than two centuries the vote has been gradually shedding its numerous restrictions -- racial, property- and gender-related, etc. The last remaining restriction -- age qualification -- holds. Children under 18, who constitute about one quarter of the population, remain in the "black hole" of suffrage. The "black hole" in suffrage leads to a "black hole" in politics and the state. So, an outrageous unfairness towards and discrimination against children persists.
Becoming a nation's citizen from birth, a child becomes a voter only after 18 years, as if in the intervening years the child lives outside society, is not its member, does not have problems and needs, and does not do anything of social importance. In f act, children do the most important thing: they reproduce themselves as a nation's major, human resource, the one that is later to reproduce ALL of the nation's resources, and on which, therefore, the nation's future TOTALLY depends. Why then don't we see deputies elected on children's behalf, who will re present children's interests in the legislative organs of democratic nations? Why is it that every other population group has its interests represented, while children's interests are not represented and basically excluded from politics in general? What accounts for this is a deeply-rooted electoral tradition, a legacy of industrial society, which allows onLY for direct and single voting: every able-bodied citizen has only onE vote, (s)he may vote only in person, on his/her own behalf, never on anyone else's. Such is the major voting principle of modern democracy, a principle formed in the industrial society. At a first, superficial, glance it seems quite fair. However, a closer examination reveals that this principle is fair for adults onLY, and not for children. The implication of the principle is that children are incapable and, because of their age, unable to make a conscious, political choice (this premise seems fair and valid), while it is PROHIBITED that any other person can make a political choice on their behalf. And this one is unfair, because this restriction, a political one, leads to discrimination against children and validates injustice done to them. This injustice, a legacy of industrial society5, conflicts with the social function performed by children. This injustice perpetuates a cumbersome political legacy of generational or age discrimination , curtails modern democracy, impedes its modernization, and conflicts with the demands of a postindustrial, informational society of the globalization era. The age qualification, depriving children of a voice in the political process, is a seminal cause of children' s "poverty and discrimination" and should be abolished through the adoption of children’s suffrage.
Social, political and moral necessity of children’s suffrage
Children, from birth, are members of society and citizens of a nation. Like adults, they have pressing needs and engage in a wide spectrum of daily activities. They do something which is very important for society: they reproduce themselves as a major social resource. They are engaged in socializing themselves. And this activity is just as important as any other socially useful activity. Moreover, for society, the socialization of children and the younger generation is a most important life- spring, which determines society's future and its quality. The process of socialization is very difficult and arduous for every child. Children's socialization is needed not only by children but by adults, by society in general, as well. So, society should use all available opportunities to make the process of socialization effective. And if socialization requires an efficient political instrument, such as children’s suffrage, then society should add it to its political process. So, there is a social necessity for children’s suffrage.
Its political necessity arises from the fact that the political process of a democratic government is flawed and inefficient without children’s suffrage, without having the vote granted to nearly a quarter of the population excluded heretofore. Democracy's completion and maturity is predicated on the completion and maturity of citizens' suffrage. Suffrage is the beginning and the fountainhead of democracy, the gateway to it, whose quality and breadth determine the quality and breadth of a democracy. Contemporary suffrage is restricted to adults, and excludes children under age 18, who make up nearly 25% of the population; and for this reason contemporary democracy, from the viewpoint of suffrage, is only 75% complete and mature. Suffrage is a principal resource for the formation of power structures in a democratic nation. And if one quarter of this source is blocked, and people -- the source of power -- are "shortened" by one quarter, then the quality of a democratic government is significantly lessened in comparison with the possibilities of its completion.
Children, as well as adults, have their special interests, and politically, children's interests must be taken into account as much as adults' interests. Thus, children are in fact entitled to participate in elections and referenda on an EQUAL footing with adults. Children’s suffrage, secured by law, has an enormous political significance, as it broadens and deepens democracy, lending to it a child's kindly face. Through children’s suffrage, democracy broadens its resource base -- people -- to include the totality of its population. Democracy needs children’s suffrage as much as children do. Adopting children’s suffrage is the only way for democracy to prove its viability and to show contemporaries that, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, although it is the worst form of government, all the others that have been tried are worse still. Such is a general political necessity of children’s suffrage. Politically, suffrage must be made more inclusive. To achieve this, the vote, which is direct (on one's own behalf) and single (prohibiting voting for another person) must be complemented with a vote that is VICARIOUS (not only on one's own behalf) and MULTIPLE (on one's children's behalf). Inclusion of children enlarges the main electoral principle. only if we introduce children’s suffrage, to be exercised by parents or legal guardians, can we elevate children 's problems to a political level, and to acquire at that level a sustained political will and a systemic mechanism for handling children’s problems. on the other hand, of all possible transformations of democracy, a transformation through children’s suffrage is the deepest, most humane and socially efficient.
There is also a moral and psychological nee d, which stems from the two needs outlined above. We talked earlier about the social unfairness of the key principle of suffrage upheld by modern democracy, a principle that completely excludes children from politics. As is well known, because of their age, children are unable to politically articulate their interests. This principle allows adults to ignore children's interests in the electoral systems of democratic nations and to deprive children of the vote. However, children's inability to articulate their interests does not mean they should be deprived of the vote. Is it fair to deprive children of the vote only because they are unable to articulate their interests? If children's problems and interests are as important as those of adults', then, for fairness sake, adults, rather than exclude, should incorporate children's interests into the political sphere; rather than deprive children of the vote, should give it to them. If we are to follow this line of thinking, adults, rather than barring children from participation in election, should HELP them to participate, ASSUMING, as parents or legal guardians, the task of articulating children's interests by way of ELECTING fitting parliamentary deputies, who would promote children's interests in the legislative bodies of the government. Helping children is a moral and psychological obligation of adults, parents and guardians above all. What is it that prevents adults from fulfilling the obligation? This obligation does not require from parents that they spend too much time, energy, money, etc. So, there are no serious obstacles. Moreover, present conditions, the deterioration of children's quality of life and the at- risk nature of their situation makes this project al l the more urgent. Such is the moral necessity of children’s suffrage. Exercise of children’s suffrage by adults is an indicator of growth of both obligation to and responsibility for children, which the contemporary situation calls for. This is also an indicator of parents' growing consciousness. What generation of parent s will become aware of a growing obligation to and responsibility for children? What generation will understand that the exercise of their children's suffrage does not conflict with their love for their children , but just the opposite, strengthens and enriches it with a new and important component. These writers hope that their research will sustain the hypothesis that the present generation of young parents is already prepared for new parental responsibilities.
Children’s suffrage as a demand of globalization
Children’s suffrage is called for by globalization and a qualitatively new, postindustrial, informational, society. Progress of the global world toward social harmony and equality, and elimination of injustices inflicted by globalization, are impossible without a systemic political monitoring of the interests of children, who make up approximately a quarter of the global population. Globalization of economics, politics, science, education, along with an informational revolution and acceleration of the pace of life; transition from a law-based democracy to a social one; aggravation of the problems that younger generations and young families encounter; the increasing importance of education, the rise in visibility of the social sphere, the strengthening of civil society, a shift in global strategic interests from confrontation to cooperation -- these, and many other factors, call for an extension of suffrage to include children. only children’s suffrage can help ensure that children's interests are incorporated into politics internationally on a systemic basis. Therefore, children’s suffrage, if adults approve it and grant it to their children and grandchildren, should be secured in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in the relevant laws of different countries around the world.
Childhood problems are relevant not only to individual nations, but to the world in general and, therefore, to globalization. The future of globalization, its quality and degree of fairness, is determined by the quality of life of children, and depends on their education, health, mental outlook and welfare. Children’s suffrage is an efficient instrument for achieving a high quality of children's education, health, mental outlook and welfare, and also a means for handling children's problems successfully. Children’s suffrage is a demand of globalization, a prerequisite for the enhancement of its fairness and equality with regards to, above all, children’s future . Children’s suffrage is a prerequisite for the new democracy, which can become truly social only on a global scale, as is evidenced by the global flows of immigration. Fair globalization is possible only when conditions for child-rearing are universally favorable around the world, and children’s suffrage ensures that the situation will be favorable. Today it is difficult to determine whether globalization is beneficial or detrimental to children, and whether, as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires, it gives children the best things, since it seems obvious that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. Children’s suffrage is able, if not to eliminate the gap altogether, then at least to shorten it for children of the world, to ensure that children have the best things and live in a world that is fit for them. Adding to globalization and democracy a child dimension, children’s suffrage transforms their oligarchic face into a kindly, human face. The global world and global democracy require a new suffrage, new elect oral system, free from all restrictions, including the age qualification . It may be that children's interests can be placed in the forefront only at a global level. But time will show which level, global or local, will prove more sensitive to children's interests, to their suffrage, and at which level an introduction of children’s suffrage will start.
Children’s suffrage, the constitution and electoral legislation
(Russia, as an example. Other countries need individual consideration)
Constitutional and electoral legislation are the le gal factors that have paramount importance for introduction of children’s suffrage. Obviously, if society and govern mental institutions recognize the social, political, moral and psychological necessity for children’s suffrage and deem it necessary to secure it legislatively, then it will become possible to introduce appropriate amendments into constitutional and electoral legislation. But before broaching this subject, we should determine at first whether the constitutions of individual countries have provisions conflicting with children’s suffrage and how rigid age qualifications are in their elect oral legislation. Below we examine, from this viewpoint, the relevant legal documents of Russia.
The Russian Constitution states that children are citizens of the country whose "fundamental human rights and freedoms are inalienable... since the day of birth.6" one of these rights is suffrage -- "the right to elect."7 (Citizenship legislation, too, recognizes that children are Russian citizens since the day of birth8). The Constitution does not provide an age qualification for the right to elect. Thus, the Constitution does not deprive children of the vote, it does not contain such a prohibition. So, in Russia there are no constitutional obstacles to children’s suffrage and an adoption of the relevant federal law. Introduction of children’s suffrage would not require any amendments to the Russian Constitution.
However, the current federal election legislation 9 provides for an age qualification -- an age- based restriction to the right to elect. The age qualification conflicts with the Constitution, which recognizes that citizens from birth have the right to elect; it conflicts with the definition of citizenship in the citizenship legislation, as well as the key definitions of the election legislation. Below we examine these definitions and the contradictions. "Voter means a Russian Federation citizen w ho is entitled to an active electoral right." 10 But individuals become citizens from birth, therefore, children have the vote too, i.e. they should be voters, but they aren't.
"Active electoral right ("active suffrage") means the right of a Russian Federation citizen to elect to bodies of state power and bodies of local self-government."11 It follows from here that children have suffrage too.
"Passive electoral right ("passive suffrage") means the right of a Russian Federation citizen to be elected to bodies of state power and bodies of local self-government."12 Doesn't it mean that children have the right to be elected too?
"Electoral rights of citizens means the constitutional right of citizens of the Russian Federation to elect and be elected to bodies of stat e power and bodies of local self-government."13 Children are citizens, therefore, they enjoy all voting rights.
"A citizen of the Russian Federation shall participate in elections on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot."14 Children are citizens, therefore, they should participate in elections.
"Universal Suffrage and Right to Participate in Referendum: A citizen of the Russian Federation who has attained the age of 18 years shall be entitled to elect, vote at a referendum."15 HERE IS THE AGE QUALIFICATION! UNIVERSAL suffrage turns out to be NOT UNIVERSAL, but RESTRICTED exclusively to citizens over the age of 18.
"Citizens declared incapable by a court or held in custody under a court sentence shall not be entitled to elect and be elected or to participate in a referendum."16 Citizens below 18 are not included in this category, which conflicts with the preceding article.
"Equal Electoral Rights and Right to Participate in Referendum: 1. Citizens of the Russian Federation shall participate in elections and referendums in the Russian Federation on an equal basis. 2. If, at an election to a legislative (representative) body of state power or to a representative body of local self-government, electoral districts are established with different number of seats, each voter shall have an equal number of votes."17 Children are citizens of Russia, therefore, they are entitled to participate in elections and referenda on an equal basis with other, adult, citizens, who are 18 or older.
"Direct Electoral Rights, the Right to Direct Expression of Will at Referendum: At elections or a referendum a citizen of the Russian Federation shall vote directly at elections or a referendum for or against a candidate (a list of candidates) respectively, for or against a referendum question."18 So, children, as citizens, they too are entitled to vote directly, by themselves. "Secret Ballot: Voting at elections and referendums shall be by secret ballot, which shall exclude any control over expression of a citizen's will."19 So, children being citizens, any control over their voting is prohibited.
And now we sum up the analysis of the articles of the election legislation concerning age qualification. As is clear, the legislation contains many legal inconsistencies and absurdities with regards to children. It would be no t unwarranted to say that this legislation, depriving children of the right to elect because of age, politically discriminates against children and violates the Russian Constitution. The election legislation does not address the major real conflict between children's citizenship and the impossibility for children to exercise their right to elect , which, as citizens, they have from birth. The legislation does nothing but complicate the contradictions. There is only one remedy for this: in view of children's incapability (inability to make decisions and choices independently), the right to vote and the exercise of this right should be SEPARATED. Children have the right, while parents/guardians should assume the task of exercising it. But to achieve this, parents/guardians, the state and society on the whole need to have a moral and political WILL to eliminate electoral discrimination against children, to recognize children's right to vote, and to restore this right as one of the basic human rights, which children enjoy from birth and which is inalienable from them.
A special federal law, which we would call ‘Children’s Suffrage Law’ , is needed in order to materialize the will, if there is one, and to separate children’s suffrage from the exercise of it. The current election legislation should be amended to conform to the Children’s Suffrage Law: the age qualification should be eliminated, and the following principle introduced: " every citizen since the day of birth has the right to elect (the vote), which before the child attains the age of 18 should be exercised by the child's parents or legal guardians." Below we examine more fully the content and meaning of the proposed law.
Legal mechanism for implementing children’s suffrage
A legal tool for children’s suffrage is the federal Children’s Suffrage Law. This law is to become a legal mechanism for implementing the right. The question here is when exactly Children’s Suffrage Law will be adopted? This will vary by country. Some countries will adopt it sooner, some later. But in any case, in every country the project is to start off with an elaboration of the concept similar to the one described here, as well as public opinion polls, of parents/guardians first of all. Below we formulate the meaning, major principles and notions of Children’s Suffrage Law.
The political meaning (function) of Children’s Suffrage Law consists in a formation, at every level of the legislative branch of a democratic government, of a stable parliamentary majority (more than 50% of deputies). This majority includes approximately 25% of deputies elected by children votes, and over 25% of deputies elected by parents/guardian s. We'll call these deputies, elected by the votes of children and parents/guardians, " children's (or youth’s) deputies ." So, children and their parents/guardians constitute the social buttress/base of this majority, a base only Children’s Suffrage Law can create. (It should be noted that this buttress is universal and permanent for all countries, rich and poor alike, because it is a part of universal sphere classes of population , permanently present in every nation, -- we'll talk about it later.) The function of children's deputies and relevant factions and committees in legislative organs at every level is to create a permanent and efficient federal system which would handle children's problems, i.e. eliminate or suppress social causes of the problems. Major principles and notions of Children’s Suffrage Law:
1. "The major principle of Children’s Suffrage Law": EVERY CH ILD IS GRANTED THE RIGHT OF THE VOTE (or to participate in referenda), WHICH SHALL BE EXERCISED BY THE CHILD'S PARENT OR LEGAL GUARDIA N. This principle reflects the bifurcation of children’s suffrage: a) the right of vote/choice ; b) the right of voting/electing , i.e. to exercise the right of vote/choice. This is bifurcation of an abstract right and its real exercise (participation in voting, in election). This principle ensures an equality in and meaning for society of the children's interests by way of granting children the vote, though not the right to exercise it, because they cannot realize this right due to their age-specific incapability.
2. "Universal suffrage, children’s suffrage, adults' suffrage, adults' suffrage tied to their children" are four different but interconnected notions. Adults' suffrage is the right enjoyed by citizens above 18 to vote on their own behalf, to be independent voters. Adults' suffrage tied to their children is the right of citizens above 18 to vote on their children's behalf. Children’s suffrage is the right of citizens below 18 to have the vote and to be dependent voters. Universal suffrage is the right enjoyed by the totality of population and it includes both the vote and the right of voting. It does not allow citizens to vote on behalf of other citizens, except on behalf of their children below 18.
3. "Independent voter/elector" is an adult able-bodied citizen who has the vote and the right of voting, both on his/her own behalf and on his/her children's behalf. "Dependent voter/elector" is a child who has the vote, is entered into electoral register, but does not have the right of voting, the latter right being exercised by his/her parent/guardian. Under certain circumstances a dependent voter can become independent. Children’s Suffrage Law should have a clause stipulating that in exceptional cases a special commission may allow gifted children aged 10 to 18, if they wish so, to participate in elections independently, after taking an appropriate examination or a test;
4. Children’s suffrage is the right of vote for child/children below 18 reflecting the fact the child has (is granted) the vote that this right is given to the child. Children’s suffrage can be only active, but not passive, which means that children have only right of a choice/vote but have no right to be elected. Herein lies the main distinction between children’s suffrage and adults' suffrage (about other distinctions see below). ANY child is granted the vote, from birth, irrespective from his/her health, domicile and living conditions. So, children’s suffrage is universal for children. The adoption of it will make the suffrage truly universal, embracing the whole of the population, except incapable adults. The pool of voters will include almost the population total.
5. In those countries in which minor children comprise more than 25% of the population (or other figure corresponding to demographic politics of government), it may not be feasible to grant voting rights to all of the children in every family. In such countries, the Children’s Suffrage Law might contain notions of "potential” and “actual” children’s suffrage, and limit the number of children on behalf of whom a parent may vote -- this defines the actual children’s suffrage. Potential children’s suffrage would apply to all children. Actual children’s suffrage would apply to a given number of children per family. In these countries, not all children would be entered into the electoral register at any given time. However, as older children in a family attain majority, the younger ones would be registered, and potential children’s suffrage and actual children’s suffrage would eventually become the same. Conversely, when a nation’s children comprise less than 25% of its population, it may not want to limit the number of children with actual votes, and the law would not have to include a distinction between potential and actual rights.
6. "Adults' suffrage tied to their children” is the parents/guardians' right to exercise their children’s suffrage. This right means that able-bodied parents/guardians assume a certain amount of votes, equal to the amount of children they have ( unless the law restricts the amount). This clause makes adults' suffrage tied to their children I NDIRECT, UNEQUAL (according to the number of children) and MEDIATED, but it maintains the vote of adults themselves DIRECT and UNMEDIATED. Thus, universal suffrage retains only two definitions: UNIVERSAL and SECRET. If a child is orphaned, does not have any of the parents left, or his/her parents are deprived of parental rights, then (s)he is assigned a guardian, who is to exercise children’s suffrage. Adult spouses with children are to independently decide how (taking turns or permanently, in equal parts or not) they will be exercising their children’s suffrage. An appropriate decision with regards to this, which can be changed at any time, spouses shall write down, notarize and turn in to a local election board. If a parent is below 18, then his/her right tied to his/her child will be delegated to the parent's parent/guardian.
7. "Parents/guardians' obligation to exercise their children’s suffrage " implies not only an entitlement, but also a parents/guardians' obligation to vote for own children. Nobody understands children's interests better than parents/guardians. Nobody else would be able to make the best possible choice among the candidates in the child's interests. For this reason the obligation to exercise children’s suffrage is put on children's parents/guardians. Because of the social importance of this duty, any evasion from it, except when for valid reasons, is punished with a fine. The law should provide for a listing of the valid reasons and the penalty amount. In this section, universal suffrage, no more voluntary, becomes compulsory, by reason of the paramount importance of children in society. on the other hand, in order to motivate parents/guardians, it would be useful that the law provide for incentives, e.g., work or tax benefits, a small financial reward for the exercise of children’s suffrage, etc.
8. "Principal executors (subjects ) of children’s suffrage" are children's parents/guardians. Parents/guardians are the most active group of a population, mostly between ages 18 and 60, a majority of whom are young persons between 18 and 35. At this age, most people start families, give birth to children and bring them up in the early, most important, stages of life. Thus, children’s suffrage is important, first of all, to young people, to all pa rents/guardians; but it also assigns them certain responsibilities. If they do not actively support children’s suffrage and exercise it at all elections and referenda, the law will remain inoperative. So, parents/guardians are the principal subjects of children’s suffrage. If parents/guardians do not exercise it, children’s suffrage is dead. Whether children’s suffrage is to live or to die depends on parents'/guardians' eagerness, sense of duty and concern for their children, and first of all, on their willingness to exercise children’s suffrage. If parents/guardians do not see the need for children’s suffrage, other people will hardly see the need, either. Politically and legally, parents/guardians are key figures in two aspects: a) as agents of implementation of children’s suffrage; b) as participants in elections, where they are to have, by law, in addition to their own vote, their children's votes as well. This means that approximately 25% of the population, a group made up of parents/guardians, is to possess (control), together with their children's votes, more than 50% of ALL votes. Some may consider this seeming disparity20 unfair, but as we show ed earlier, only this proportion is fair to children. What would we, adults, prefer: formal parity or actual fairness to our children? There is no simple answer to this question. Therefore, an initial sociological study blazing the trail for the introduction of children’s suffrage should examine the willingness of parents/guardians to be the principal subjects of a Children’s Suffrage Law (see Concept-2).
9. "Restrictions on the parents/ guardians' right to vote on their children's behalf" should be introduced for parents who are alcoholics, drug addicts, etc. Children’s Suffrage Law should envisage a mechanism restricting (through the amount of children, benefits, time) or annulling their right to vote on their children's behalf upon a request from the organs of education or local self-government. For the most hardened cases of alcoholic parents, the law should envisage an accelerated procedure for depriving them of parental rights. Such sanctions against alcoholic parents are due to lead to a decrease in their number and to improve the psychological climate in such families.
10. In every nation, the issue of adoption of children’s suffrage and Children’s Suffrage Law should be put up for a national referendum, after conducting relevant sociological studies. The referendum should be preceded by a far-reaching, in tense and long (at leas t year-long) campaign explaining the social and political benefits of a Children’s Suffrage Law21.
The Children’s Suffrage Law outline presented here, complemented with sanctions against its abuses, will create a necessary legal mechanism for regulating the EXERCISE of children’s suffrage. All social effects that Children’s Suffrage Law may produce are harmless, but as with any law, it can be used in nationalistic, racist and similar anti-human or mercenary purposes, and in those cases, the perpetrators, not the law, should be held account able. Therefore, Children’s Suffrage Law should provide for sanctions against those who abuse it. The only drawback of the law, which is bound to evanesce soon, is its novelty, unusualness.
Children’s Suffrage Law: legislative (parliamentary) majority and top-priority budgetary financing of the children's sphere
Below we examine more fully the main function of Children’s Suffrage Law. This law creates a unique political opportunity to have a majority (over 50%) of parliamentary seats at all levels taken by children's deputies, elected by the votes of children (approximately 25% of the electorate) and of their parents/guardians (more than 25% of the electorate). Of course, this is an optimistic estimate, because in reality hardly all parents/guardians will be participating in elections. However, because other groups of voters do not participate in elections to their full capacity, either, the probability of children's deputies taking a majority of seats in parliaments is very high and bound to increase concurrently with an increase in parents'/guardians' voting activity. (Children’s Suffrage Law introduces into elections an new element of competition between groups of voters, which is bound to boost considerably the elections turnout.) A parliament where children's deputies make a majority is bound to give first priority to children's problems both by raising its visibility and by augmenting the federal financing. Top-priority budgetary financing of the children's sphere is the primary, most effective and important consequence of children’s suffrage. It is a key strategy to improve of children’s well-being in an age of globalization.
"Children's" (or “youth’s”) parliamentary majority is due to create the much-needed system of sustained and efficient handling of children's problems. So, Children’s Suffrage Law is to become a legal guarantee that children's problems receive a primary consideration; it will also provide an instrument for creating an efficient system for hand ling the problems, a system addressing, first of all, the causes of children's problems. Without Children’s Suffrage Law, children's problems will NEVER be a priority, will NEVER have a permanent and efficient mechanism for addressing the issues and providing a top-priority financing. Without Children’s Suffrage Law, the situation of children in the world will NEVER qualitatively change for the better, and all children's rights stipulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are bound to remain tokenistic, unbuttressed by a legal mechanism for upholding it.
Children’s Suffrage Law: the instrument for a systemic handling of children's problems
Children's problems are systemic. This means that they, on the one hand, are a product of all branches, spheres and institutions of society, and on the other hand, have a reverse negative impact.
Therefore, a resolution of children's problems is not something that can be achieved by separate parliamentary committees or commissions, by separate ministries or departments of state. A systemic nature of children's problems requires an equally systemic mechanism for grappling with them, a mechanism to be built and fine-tuned continuously and across the whole spectrum of society's spheres, state ministries and departments. At all levels of government, only a parliamentary majority can handle this task. And onLY a Children’s Suffrage Law, as appropriate election legislation, can help create a parliamentary majority that will systemically address and give a primary consideration to children's problems. Thus, Children’s Suffrage Law is an instrument for a high-priority, and systemic, across the whole spectrum of government departments, hand ling of children's problems. Creating a systemic mechanism for handling children's problems is a long- term and extremely complex project, requiring a permanent, legislatively secured buttress, which only Children’s Suffrage Law can provide. Without this Law, no such mechanism is possible.
Other positive effects of a Children’s Suffrage Law
A Children’s Suffrage Law, as a systemic law transforming electoral and political systems, has a huge spectrum of positive social implications, some of which -- those not discussed earlier -- we want to emphasize. We have tried to group these effects into those affecting individual spheres of society, and those affecting society in general. So, the adoption of this law and creation, on the basis of this law, a governmental mechanism for high-priority and systemic handling of children's problems:
For society in general:
will open up a new avenue for an innovative and accelerated development of nations, first of all third-world nations, by turning the negative factor of overpopulation (overproduction of children) into a beneficial resource to these nations' welfare (such is the dialectics of Children’s Suffrage Law),
will shift priorities from economic and military competition between nations to competition in children's welfare -- this is the most humane kind of competition (it can be called humanitarian),
will shift the global priorities from animosity, distrust, injustice, violence, armies, etc., to children's welfare, i.e. to peace, justice and cooperation for children's sake,
will enhance the humanistic component of globalization, lending to globalization a human face and a children dimension. A globalization era requires a new quality of people, which starts with a new quality of children, which, accordingly, starts with an adoption of children’s suffrage,
will considerably strengthen the forces of peace, humanism and dialog of civilizations in international relations of the new century, the culture of peace,
will overcome the crisis of society, the government and democracy, will rejuvenate and modernize them,
will reinforce and expedite the development of civil society,
In the social sphere:
will considerably ameliorate the situation of children (and children's sphere) in society, enhance the quality of children and their socialization (education, healthcare, leisure, sports, etc.), will strengthen the family, reinforce the importance and authority of parents not only in society, but for children as well,
will reinforce the parents/guardians' moral and psychological sense of duty to their children,
will overcome the dehumanitization of education and enhance the moral upbringing of school children,
will have an especially beneficial effect on the position and the rights of mothers, especially younger ones, carrying most of the burden of childcare at the early stages of children's development (Children’s Suffrage Law has also some other gender implications),
will create an efficient mechanism for handling demographic problems, a mechanism apt to increase birth rates in some countries 22, while in some others, to reduce or hold it in check, by way of introducing relevant clauses into Children’s Suffrage Law, granting the vote to all or only some children in a family, envisaging additional benefits for or taxes on children, etc,
will enhance the exchange of services between generations, as well as ties between them, reciprocal sense of duty and mutual help. At first parents vote on their children's behalf, take care of children's welfare; and then, when children grow up and live independently, they are bound to take a better care of their parents' well-being and health. (There are also other generational implications from Children’s Suffrage Law),
will act as a powerful social anti-terrorist force, which will block the use of children as suicidal terrorists. There will be more usefulness in rearing the child and voting on his/her behalf, than in using him/her as a suicidal terrorist,
In the cultural sphere:
will qualitatively enhance political culture and the consciousness of families (parents and children alike), because parents will start discussing with children party tickets, the candidates and their platforms, and which among the candidates are likely to make a better children's deputy. The growth of political culture and the rise of children's consciousness will allow in the future to lower the age qualification at first to 16, then to 14, and then maybe even to 12 years of age,
will improve the monitoring of children (through electoral registers) and will allow the state to have more control over how parents use their children; this is apt to become a powerful instrument of monitoring and prevention of juvenile delinquency and children's rights abuses. Electoral registers, including children's records, are bound to become tantamount to nearly annual censuses,
will establish a highly cultured moral and psychological climate of trust and mutual help between generations, between parents and children, will sanitate the media, will re lease them from a propagation of violence and pornography, will expand and will improve the information for children,
will make the "special care" about children by simultaneously national and global idea of societies, more stronger, than the "American dream",
In the organizational sphere:
children's votes will increase the electorate amount by approximately 25%;
will greatly decrease the rates of juvenile delinquency, prostitution, drug-taking, homelessness and children's alienation from society and the family,
will ensure the implementation of children's rights and the parity between the rights of children and those of other population groups (first of all in election legislation). Without this law, the children's highly commendable right to "special care and assistance" from society, stipulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will remain tokenistic,
will create a novel, fairer politic al scheme of distribution of power and wealth between social classes, sexes and generations. If presently almost every nation has power belonging to population groups who are predominantly male, older and wealthier, then Children’s Suffrage Law will ensure a more harmonious distribution of power between generations, sexes and classes,
will enhance the role played in politics by children and families, especially younger ones,
will augment parents/guardians' political sense of duty, their political activity,
will break the tendencies to absenteeism (election-shunning), will greatly increase the proportion of young people, especially young parents, among voters, the young voting not only on their own, but also on their children's behalf,
will raise the political visibility of social sphere in general,
will strengthen and humanize the democracy, will maximally expand its social base, will lend to democracy a kind human face and children dimension. Children’s Suffrage Law will confirm that politics is not always dirty,
will make the state social, by ensuring prominence of social sphere,
will create an efficient mechanism for consolidating governmental organizations in decision of children's problems, and for consolidating the efforts of governmental and non-governmental organizations handling these problems,
will ensure political equality in suffrage for all population, for all its social groups, including children, will organizationally consolidate the efforts of families and the government for addressing children's problems,
will shape children, who are now an inactive political resource, in to a powerful positive political resource of society,
will make the organs of local self-government a leading force in the matters of handling children's problems locally, will ensure these organs' priority financing,
will enable the countries who ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to respond to violations of it, especially violations of the Article 4, which says "States Parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention... to the maximum extent of their available resources ...", as well as a violation of the Human Rights Declaration principle that children are entitled to a "special care."23 (Italicized is what State Parties fail to accomplish.--L.S.). only children’s suffrage can ensure that the state provide children with a special care. Who is to demand it from the state?
will ensure a new sense to struggle against terrorism, corruption, drugs and criminality as to struggle for children and "a world fit for children",
will raise the social value and meaning of suffrage in general,
In the economic sphere:
will increase manifold child benefits and children's material welfare,
will lead to a twofold or fourfold increase of space allocated to children's institutions (kindergartens, schools, children's clinics, sports and leisure facilities, etc.), and this, in turn, will curb the tendencies to an overcrowding of children's facilities, especially school classes, lowering the size from 30-35 students down to 15, and then maybe even to 8,
will raise the salary levels of children's institutions' employees to the highest level among state employees,
will increase many times over human capital, i.e. economic investments in the people.
In conclusion, we want to emphasize that adopting a Children’s Suffrage Law is the only way to build a "world fit for children," to eliminate "poverty, discrimination and society's neglect of children" and to overcome the "deterioration of the situation of the young generation," mentioned in the Declaration of UN Special Session adopted in May 2002. Deprived of suffrage, children, in fact, do not enjoy other rights stipulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child either, the Convention's provisions being mostly ignored by most nations, as the UN Special Session pointed out. In this hopelessly irreparable situation, Children’s Suffrage Law becomes, in fact, a driving force for all the child's rights.
Roadblocks on the way to children’s suffrage
As demonstrated above, Children’s Suffrage Law leads to a radical overhaul of the political system and society in general, to their cardinal modernization, to a legitimate re-distribution of power and wealth in favor of children and children’s sphere. For this reason, Children’s Suffrage Law is bound to encounter a correspondingly powerful opposition, because normally "the force of counteraction is equal to the force of action." So what are the roadblocks?
A first, and the most powerful social obstacle is a centuries-old entrenched psychological tradition of neglecting and discriminating against children in politics, of an unchallenged supremacy of adults24. This tradition is very deeply rooted in the minds of modern people, having been nurtured as it was, over millennia, by the past agrarian and industrial societies, used to ignoring children's interests in politics. It will be very difficult to turn around the mass mentality, although the modern life has already undermined it. The younger generations are more apt to shed this mentality, rather than hold on to it.
(This issue calls for a special socio-psychological research.)
Second. Children’s Suffrage Law is bound to en counter resistance from those groups, which presently own the bulk of the state budget -- officials (bureaucrats), state security forces, the military- industrial complex. Children’s Suffrage Law will entail a re-distribution of the government money in favor of children, and this is due to encounter resistance among powerful social groups.
Third. The oligarchs, who are not interested in re-distribution of national wealth in children's favor, are bound to respond negatively too.
Fourth. A majority of today's deputies and lawyers, who are in the service of the powerful groups and oligarchs, will be an oppositional force as well.
Such are the main roadblocks and opposition forces, which Children’s Suffrage Law is apt to encounter. However, parents, low- and middle-income groups, especially young people and women, people employed in the social sphere (teachers, doctors, etc.) are bound to see in this law a powerful instrument for raising the well-being of their children and families, and a majority of them will surely support the law. A series of sociological studies is planned now for investigating this issue (see Concept-2).
Tetrasociology as the theoretical source for the idea of children’s suffrage, and the origination of this idea from practical experience.
Children’s suffrage is one of the logical out growths and applications of tetrasociology 25. Tetrasociology is a postpluralist (i.e. based on a definite number of society's dimensions) "grand theory" and a multi-dimensional model of society in 24 parameters of four-dimensional spatial- temporal metrics. The author has been working on the theory in Russia for more than 25 years. The theory started to be known in the West in 2002, when a book about it was first published in English26. Tetrasociology made five social discoveries "at the tip of a pen," and because of this, they are hypotheses in need of a fundamental empirical evidence to corroborate it. These discoveries- hypotheses include: sphere classes27 as actors of social harmony, sphere democracy, sphere sociological statistics, sphere informational-statistical technologies, sociocultural technology of prosperity through harmony and information. Although it originated in Russia, tetrasociology is not a national, but rather, international and tolerant, paradigm. It belongs to Western culture, continuing and developing the "tetrary," four-dimensional, pluralist tradition of Western thinking, a tradition originating from Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato and Aristotle in the antiquity, and then on to M.Weber, Braudel, Parsons, Toffler, Bourdieu, Giddens, Sztompka and Castells in the 20th century. Tetrasociology rests on these giants' shoulders28 and draws on the ideas of many other scholars as well. Among the latter, we want to point to C. Wright Mills' idea of sociological imagination29, Bernard Phillips' web approach30, Jeffrey Alexander's cultural sociology31, Reimon Bachika's universal values32, Martha Ross DeWitt’s power sharing33, Hilarie Roseman’s enlightened heart 34, Craig Calhoun's cultural difference and historical characteristics35, Jonathan Turner's four emotional forces/resources 36, Fritjof Capra's four social perspectives37, Bernd Hornung’s and Bernard Scott’s sociocybernetical straight connections and feedback38, and many others.
Tetrasociology's chief achievement consists in a discovery of particular, sphere classes of population, differing by the main employment in one of society production spheres and constantly trying to achieve social harmony, overcoming the other social groups' disharmony and unequality. Tetrasociology recognizes children as equal in rights participants and members of sphere classes, first of all of social class, which is employed in people reproduction. (Tetrasociology uses the notion of "social reproduction of people," which embraces all sections of social sphere: education, health, religion, leisure, sports, etc. This concept should not be confused with the concept of biological reproduction, which refers only to birth rates.) Children are equal with other people with regards to the reproduction of the self. Children are employed in reproduction of themselves, and for society, this is the most important function, because children are the only source society can use to replenish its human resource. If children are recognized as society members, equal with other members in reproductive employment, if they are recognized as citizens from birth, then they should also have from birth the right of vote in a democratic nation. Tetrasociology distinguishes between children’s suffrage and election employment (participation in elections), which is a characteristic of adults alone. The separation of children’s suffrage from the exercise of it by parents/guardians is based on this distinction.
As we emphasized above, children and their parents/guardians are to become the social base/buttress of a parliamentary majority to be created by Children’s Suffrage Law. This social base in unusual and can be explained only from the position of tetrasociological sphere classes39. The nature of this social base is determined by sphere classes, which are global and harmonious, and which weaken the rigid boundaries between traditional antagonistic classes and groups. So, the social base, made of these classes, has a distinctive nature -- global and harmonious. Children and their parents/guardians have a sphere-based social structure and belong to sphere classes employed in social reproduction spheres. Children belong to the social class, but they prepare themselves for employment in all four sphere classes, while parents/guardians already belong to sphere classes and are employed in them. Thus, the social base including children and their parents/guardians is common for all countries of the world, rich and poor, big and small, and, therefore, this base too is global and harmonious. Children’s suffrage and Children’s Suffrage Law share these characteristics.
There is also another important connection between children’s suffrage / Children’s Suffrage Law and sphere classes. on the one hand, children’s suffrage is needed by people as members of sphere and harmonious classes, on the other hand, children’s suffrage helps people to become aware of a novel, sphere-based, universal identity and community. This is an instance in the process of the growth of political self-awareness of sphere classes and their progress toward social harmony, including harmony between age groups and generations. This harmony is politically reflected in children’s suffrage, which, on the rebound, helps shape an appropriate political framework (organisation) for harmony. The introduction of children’s suffrage will significantly raise the level of social harmony and people's self-awareness. Such is the most general outline of tetrasociology as a source of the idea of children’s suffrage. This theoretical source of children’s suffrage is represented in the systemic political thinking, which a cohort of scholars guided by Prof. A.I.Yuriev40 conceptualizes within a political psychology framework. The political-psychological aspects of children’s suffrage call for additional research.
In terms of practical experience, the idea was a product of one of my work as a city council member and an NGO activist. In 1990-1993 I was elected as a deputy of the city parliament (LenSoviet/PetroSoviet) of St.Petersburg and was in charge of children's and families' problems. In 1990-1997 I was the president of F.M.Dostoevsky Children's Foundation of St.Petersburg, which I created. In 1991 a draft of the first Family Code of Russia41 was produced under the Foundation's auspices and my guidance, and the Code's first chapter was devoted to children ’s rights, although it did not yet mention children’s suffrage. The experience of tackling children's problems as a city council member and a children's foundation's president, in a city with a 5,000,000 population, taught that these problems are intractable within the existing political system and that when one homeless, drug- addicted, or orphaned child is settled, 2 or 3 kids with similar problems "fill in the vacancy," and that the total social-political system reproduces children's problems on a large scale. The system is set to address only consequences, not causes. It started to become clear then that in order to address children's problems earnestly, rather than in a usual lackadaisical manner, a systemic federal mechanism was needed, and that its social base could be formed only through children’s suffrage . The idea, which originated in around 1993, then seemed to the author too crazy. But gradually, pondering over its various facets, the author became convinced that the idea was good and useful. In 2000 the idea of children’s suffrage was first mentioned publicly42, and developed in my books and publications later on43. So, the children’s suffrage concept is rooted both in theory and in practice and has matured over time, which makes it viable.
Children’s suffrage as a new general right and universal standard of the globalization era.
The new era expands civil rights and liberties, and expansion of freedom of expression and the processes of obtaining and disseminating information is a very clear evidence of it. Consumers’ rights take off and reach far around. Suffrage expands. If it is to be expanded comprehensively, the age qualification would have to be abolished as a rudiment of industrial society, and children’s suffrage, an instrument for making suffrage truly universal, would have to be legally secured. Children’s suffrage has a big impact on other civil rights and liberties, abolishing restrictions imposed on those by the age qualification. Here are several important points.
A) The age qualification bounds so universal a value as love for people, and, in particular, reciprocal love between parents and children. The age qualification bars parents from channelling their love and care for children into politics. Children’s suffrage, conversely, abolishes this restriction and enables parents to wield a powerful political tool of electoral system for the affirmation of their love for children; and this, in turn, is apt to augment the grown-up children's love and care for their parents.
B) The age qualification limits people's freedom and prevents parents from realizing the freedom of making political choices for their children's benefit, i.e. the most humane aspect of this freedom. Children’s suffrage, conversely, abolishes this curtailment of freedom, humanizes and significantly expands freedom, complementing it with a qualitatively new kind of freedom -- freedom to elect on one's children's behalf.
C) The age qualification encroaches on equality among people, leads to a patent political discrimination against children and shrinks the political salience of children's interests. Children’s suffrage, conversely, eradicates discrimination against and political inequality of children and equalizes children with all other population groups in so politically significant a right as suffrage. Children’s suffrage ensures a true electoral equality, which will help to confer on "the right to elect" the status of a universal civil right and to add it both to the Human Rights Declaration and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
D) The age qualification raises insurmountable obstacles on the path to fraternity of the humans, social justice and harmony. Children’s suffrage, conversely, abolishes these obstacles and helps make a considerable progress along the road, the social significance of this advancement being very simple, but profound: if children are having a better life, the society on the whole, all people are bound to live better too.
Thus, children’s suffrage, abolishing the restrictions imposed by age qualifications on civil rights, liberties and universal human values, and humanizing the quality of the understanding and usage of those, itself becomes a new right, a new freedom and a new universal norm of the globalization era. Children’s suffrage modernizes and elevates the principles of "freedom, equality and fraternity" to a new humanistic level. It becomes a legislative manifestation of the universal attitude toward children. Through children’s suffrage, the new, informational society overcomes a restriction such as age qualification inherited from the old, industrial society. Children’s suffrage is a qualitative transformation of this society's rights, freedoms and values.
What political party will make children’s suffrage its own manifesto?
Children’s suffrage is a political phenomenon, and if it is to be instituted, this would have to be done by political means, first of all through the efforts of a political party. Hence arises a question to which there is no answer today: what political party will make children’s suffrage its manifesto and a part of its electoral platform? Obviously, this would have to be a party with a novel mentality and ideology, with a novel awareness of civil rights, freedoms and universal values, an awareness befitting the new era. What population groups are likely to make a social base of this kind of party? The young and women -- they are the first to benefit from children’s suffrage. We will not further elaborate on the political aspects, because our Concept is not about politics, but about science and a sociological study of the parents/guardians' relations to children’ s suffrage. But, obviously, these two subjects are interconnected. To demonstrate the urgency of children’s suffrage, I want to quote several examples.
Appendix. Children's plight 2003: several facts
Below I quote several most typical and fresh facts concerning children's situation 2003 in different countries.
In Russia children are a source of poverty, rather than joy. 45% of families with kids have incomes lower than the subsistence wage44. This means that about half of Russia's children -- approximately 17 million people -- are living in poverty, malnourished, get sick often, go to bad schools and have few chances of going to college. According to experts' estimates, Russia has about 4 million homeless children45, which is nearly 12% of all children. 2003 was especially tragic for Russian children, albeit in a typical manner. About 50 children were killed by fire that occurred in two schools in March, and in November about 40 undergraduate students were killed by fire in a student dorm. These facts symbolize children's situation in Russia: both literally and figuratively children are burning in Russia, devoured by their plight. Russia's socio-political system is in cinerating children by its neglect and indifference. And what do people of Russia think of children's problems? As the polls show, children's problems don't even make it to the top lists of the people's main concerns. Poverty gets mentioned the frequents of all -- by 47% of those surveyed, economics -- by 32%, and so on, and children's problems are simply missing from the list46. These figures confirm society's neglect of children, which the UN Special Session highlighted.
Another telling fact: When asked about their views for their children's future, 45% of parents 47 could not give an answer! This means that nearly half the parents do not think about their children, their future, a help to and responsibility for them. Maybe children’s suffrage, which they will have to exercise, will make this sort of parents think better and make them fewer in number? The state's neglect of children is reflected in the child benefit amount -- 75 roubles, hardly sufficient to buy 5 kilos of bread or 7 litres of milk! And this is to last for a month! This is the "value" placed on children by the Russian government today! We can quote ad infinitum similar instances48 of society's and the government's indifference to children, but just talking we will do not undo these facts, nor will make the children's life better. To fight the plight, we need different, efficient, means, and children’s suffrage is the best one.
USA. Here are two quotations from U.S. newspapers. First: New York Times, November 27, 2003. School Is Haven When Children Have No Home.
By Sam Dillon.
“Homeless adults get little help from the government, since many poverty relief programs were dismantled in the 1990's. But a federal law that require s local districts to seek out and enrol homeless students and provide services to them has forced public schools across the nation to become safety nets of last resort, educators and experts on the homeless said.
Experts say they can only estimate how many students are home less across the United States because nobody has gathered nationwide data since a 2000 report to Congress by the Department of Education. That report said there were 930,000 homeless youths, 621,000 of whom were enrolled in public schools. Dr. Martha Burt, a researcher at the Urban Institute in Washington who in 1996 led a federally financed nationwide survey of homeless people, said the department's 2000 figures undercounted the school-age homeless considerably…
Statistics from individual states suggest that their numbers are rapidly rising. In October 2002, Colorado Department of Education officials counted 4,103 homeless students enrolled in public schools there. By May, the number had risen to 5,963.
Maryland state officials count ed 5,605 school-age homeless children two years ago, but last year the number grew to 7,322.
In Oregon, officials used data from a census of people living in shelters to estimate that there were about 21,000 homeless school-age youths in the state two years ago. Using the same methodology this fall, Oregon put the number at 28,600…..
The McKinney-Vento law, passed in 1987, strengthened the rights of homeless students when Congress reauthorized it in 2002 49. It requires each of the country's 15,000 school districts to designate a "liaison for homeless children and youth," whose duties include searching for children living in shelters, motels, campgrounds and other irregular residences, helping them enrol in school, and ensuring that they get immunisations and other medical and dental care . It also requires districts to provide transportation so that homeless children can attend the same school, even if their parents move about seeking shelter or jobs. Federal grants to states to help comply with those mandates totalled $50 million this year (only on one million on state! – L.S. ). Educators say that financing falls considerably short of the need. Many school districts supplement the grants with federal money appropriated to help poor children.
Under the law, a child who becomes homeless anywhere in the United States has the right to be enrolled in virtually any school district in the country, immediately, simply by showing up there, and can remain enrolled unless the district disproves the homeless claim…..”
The second quote is about homeless pupils.50
“Increasing poverty and homelessness is ‘a great mountain to climb’ in removing barriers to academic success for Milwaukee Public Schools students, the district's superintendent said Friday (Nov. 21, 2003) as officials reported that more than 7,000 MPS students are homeless.
According to Superintendent William Andrekopoulos and other MPS officials who attended a forum on student homelessness and mobility:
From 7,000 to 8,000 students now attending MPS are classified as homeless.
About 10,000 students live in public housing.
More than 25,000 MPS students have no health insurance.
In addition, Andrekopoulos said, some 80% of the district's 100,000 students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, which means they are poor51.
Andrekopoulos said what's also needed is more public sensitivity to the critical issue of poverty facing students.
‘We need to increase sensitivity in the hearts and minds,’ he said. ‘We must see the world through the eyes of children whose only meal a day may be the one they have at school.’52
Other MPS officials who attended the meeting at the Social Development Commission, 4041 N. Richards St., said they want to form partnerships with government agencies to deal with the growing poverty issues among students.
But Joe Volk, the chairman of the Emergency Shelter Task Force and coordinator of the Continuum of Care Homeless Coalition, said it's been hard over the years to get MPS to work with homeless groups on this issue. ‘We have had a very hard time energizing MPS around this,’ he said at the forum, which included representatives of MPS, the Social Development Commission, community agencies and a few elected officials.
‘We meet monthly,’ said Volk of the Emergency Shelter Task Force. In addition, he said, ‘The Continuum of Care works with many private non-profit groups, but MPS rarely shows up.’
‘We encourage MPS to come to our meetings and get involved.’
Volk said MPS is always sent meeting notices but rarely responds53.
Australia. From: Age, Monday, 8th December 2003, page 11, Opinion, "The children of middle Australia are in crisis" by Angela Shanahan.
"There seems to be something wrong with the way our young are brought up. ...Child abuse has become the focus of media comment on children, but it should be remembered that it is indicative of the extreme ends of dysfunctional, which we either blame on grave social pathologies or downright personal evil. But what of the majority of Australia n children who have never been subject to cruelty, abuse or even material deprivation? There is a growing body of evidence that children from the "mainstream" of suburban Australia are displaying serious physical, intellectual and emotional problems. We know about the seemingly inexplicable rise in behavioural disorders from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to mild autism. We know Australian children are fatter than they should be and are getting type 2 diabetes. We know boys are falling further and further behind girls in academic achievement and that an alarming number are killing themselves.....Last month a report was published that added to that body of evidence. It indicates that many more Australian children than previously thought might be at risk of not being able to fulfil their educational potential. Based on the widely used Canadian Educational Development Index, this report revealed alarming deficiencies in Australian children that could lead to delayed cognitive development. The results revealed that 26 per cent were vulnerable to not being able to achieve their educational potential, and 13 per cent were at high risk, particularly in the cognitive and linguistic skills area.......Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley is calling for more early childhood intervention.....As for children at the hopelessly dysfunctional end of the spectrum, such solutions are a waste of time...the problems of Aboriginal children are hopelessly endemic and will not be solved by classic interventions.......whether their mother works or not, whether they go to child care or not, whether they are black, white, immigrant or native born, whether they are clever or not,.. they need both mother and father . .the Australian family is imploding from outside pressures as much as any failing of people with it”.54
The facts mentioned above show that the problems of childhood beset poor and rich countries alike. These are persistent problems. However, governments have yet to learn to seek systemic and comprehensive solutions, addressing causes rather than consequences. Children’s suffrage and Children’s Suffrage Law open up for the state, as well as for the family, an opportunity to address the problems systemically and comprehensively. Of course, the proposed instrument is not universal; however, it appears to be the most efficient method available today. Children’s suffrage, when included in to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and secured by appropriate national legislations, will be really able to " create a world fit for children" and " to eradicate poverty, discrimination against and society's neglect of children ", the plagues which nations of the world "have failed so far" to combat in the 20th century, as the UN Special Session declared in 2002.
January 24, 2004
The author expresses a profound gratitude to the following wise, enlightened and generous women who have brought up children and grandchildren, and have contributed to development of the idea of children’s suffrage: Larissa Litvinova (Russia), w ho became a "starter" of the concept; Hilarie Roseman (Australia), Master of Art, mother of eight children and grandmother of ten grandchildren, whose kind heart, prayers, ideas , and newspaper materials very much helped my work; Alexandra Achilova, Mary Ovchinnikova, and also Vladimir Kavtorin (Russia) for their valuable remarks.
References and notes
1 By ideology we understand a teaching concerning social ideals within a concrete worldview. Our concept examines the ideal of children’s suffrage within a tetrasociological worldview (see notes on Semashko’s published work, below).
2 At the UN Special Session the World Leaders Promised to Make "World Fit for Children," in "One Country," Moscow, April-June, 2003 (in Russian).
3 U N Convention on the Rights of the Child. Protect me. Moscow, 1995.
4 Poverty, discrimination and neglect of industrial society to children are ingeniously opened still Korczak. See: Janusz Korczak (1990). How to Love the Child. Moscow
5 It is necessary to note that in the industrial epoch there were attempts to take into account the interests of children politically through the suffrage qualification. For example, the great Russian scientist Dimity Mendeleev in 1905 offered to enter instead of the property and educational qualifications a " fatherly or children's " qualification for the deputies of the State Duma (Russian parliament) and them electors. This qualification stated that, "all electors and the half c hosen deputies were the fathers having not less certain number of children”, namely 3-4 children. The children' s qualification, from his point of view, would ensure high quality of the deputies and subordinate their work to interests of the future. See: Mendeleev D.I. Treasured ideas. Moscow, 1995, p. 344.
6 Constitution of the Russian Federation. Moscow, 1994, Article 17.2
7 Ibid., Article 32.2
8 Federal Law of the Russian Federation of May 31, 2002 "On Russian Federation Citizenship”: Article 12. Acquisition of the Russian Federation Citizenship by Virtue of the Birth
1. The child shall acquire Russian Federation citizen ship by virtue of birth, if as of the date of birth of the child (italics mine.--L.S.): a) both his/her parents or his/her single parent have Russian Federation citizenship (irrespective of the child's place of birth); b) one of his/her parents has Russian Federation citizenship
9 Federal Law of the Russian Federation of June 12, 2002: on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Rights of Citizens of the Russian Federation to Participate in a Referendum
10 Ibid., Article 2.18
11 Ibid., Article 2.26
12 Ibid., Article 2.27
13 Ibid., Article 2.28
14 Ibid., Article 3.1
15 Ibid., Article 4.1
16 Ibid., Article 4.3
17 Ibid., Article 5.1, 5.2
18 Ibid., Article 6
19 Ibid., Article 7
20 This inequality of adults will ensure equality of children, and will eradicate their political discrimination. Therefore, the inequality of adults, in this case, is justified politically and morally. If their inequality on riches, education, prestige etc. is admitted, why not accept an inequality of electoral votes based on the number of children? Of all inequalities it is the most noble, worthy and politically necessary, as there is no self-interest and egoism, and gives "a special care" and equality to children. What adult would not renounce this equality for the sake of equality and well-being of children? The electoral inequality of adults is not only a political, but also a moral requirement of society. The question of to what me asure it realizes this requirement is the subject of our study.
21 A political party is needed for managing this campaign. What parties will put a Children’s Suffrage Law on their agenda? Are there such parties? Will the "parties of power" be willing to? Are there parties which are concerned about the strategic, long-term welfare of the country? So far, there is no answer to these questions. What is clear is that political parties playing "the children's" card in political poker will be the most productive and effectual.
22 The demographic function of children’s suffrage as an instrument for addressing the issues of depopulation and stimulation of the birth rates in Russia is investigated in a large and thorough article of a notable St.Petersburg sociologist, see A.V.Baranov. Depopulation, a social challenge to the government, in Zvezda, 2001, N 1, pp. 172-179.
23 Of all social groups, the Declaration confers on children alone the right to " special care," which, however, the state still fails to give them. So, the governments violate this international norm.
24 This sad tradition has opened Janusz Korczak ingeniously. See his mentioned above book.
25 In total, the author has published about 40 papers and five books on Tetrasociology, the last two of which have been translated into English, see below.
26 Semashko, Leo. 2002). Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges . http://www.tetrasociology2002.spb.ru, St. Petersburg: Technical University. Semashko L. with co-authors 2003) Tetrasociology: from Sociological Imagination through Dialogue to Universal Values and Harmony. St.-Petersburg State Polytechnical University.
27 Existence and dynamics of the sphere classes on an example of Russia prove to be true by statistical researches of the author in the book (2002, p. 84-93)
28 The ideas of these authors are considered by L.Semashko in the book 2002, 23-27)
29 Mills, C. Wright. (1959) The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford Univ. Press
30 Phillips, Bernard. (2001). Beyond Sociology's Tower of Babel: Reconstructing the Scientific Method . Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter
31 Alexander, Jeffrey (2003). The Meanings of Social Life. A Cultural Sociology . Oxford University Press
32 Bachika Reimon (2003) Tetrasociology and Values . In: Semashko L. Tetrasociology: from Sociological Imagination through Dialogue to Universal Values and Harmony. St.-Petersburg State Polytechnical University, p.191-195
33 DeWitt, Martha R. (2000). Beyond Equilibrium theory; Theories of Social Action and Social Change Applied to a Study of Power Sharing in Transition. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
34 Roseman, Hilarie 2003). The Enlightened Heart: Common Values Engage the Sacred with the Secular . Manuscript
35 Calhoun, Craig 2003). Critical Social Theory. Culture, History, and the Challenge of Difference . Blackwell Publishing
36 Turner, Jonathan 2003). Face to Face. Toward a Sociologica l Theory of Interpersonal Behavior . Stanford Univ. Press
37 Capra, Fritjof 2003). The Hidden Connections. A Science for Sustainable Living. Harper Collins Publishers
38 Scott, Bernard. (2000). Cybernetic explanation and development, Kybernetes, 29, 7/8, pp. 966-994
Hornung, Bernd R.2002). Emergence - A Key Concept for Sociocybernetic Theory of Information Society , Paper presented at the 15th World Congress of Sociology, Brisbane, July 8-13, 2002, RC51 on Sociocybernetics.
39 About sphere classes making this social base and determining its (her) global and harmonious character, in more details see L.Semashko’s works.
40 Yuriev, Alexander I. (1992). Introduction to Political Psychology. St. Petersburg University (Russian)
________. (2002). Russian Project: the Claims on the Future, Bulletin of Political Psychology. # 2 (Russian)
________. (2002). Globalization as the New Form of Political Power Changing Man and the World Order. Russia: planetary processes. St. Petersburg University (Russian)
41 Family Code of Russia. Project. (1991). Semashko L., chief of group of the developers. St.-Petersburg
42 Semashko, Leo 2000). Tetrasociology as a revolution of social thinking, way of harmony and prosperity. St- Petersburg. It was suggested that in the framework of future sphere democracy "the right to vote will be received by all children, this right is realized by the parents up to (the age of) majority of children", p.45.
43 Semashko, Leo 2002), p 105, 134; Semashko, L. 2003), p 34-35; Semashko, L. (2003). Processes of democratisation of a society and the children’s suffrage . Philosophy of childhood and sociocultural creativity. Materials of the X-th International Conference. St-Petersburg, p. 336-339. My abstract about the children's suffrage "Tetrasociology: Children's Suffrage" are submitted in the Program of Iberoamerican Congress on Childhood, Health and Society ' Globalization and Social Equity ' University of Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Mexico, November 3-5, 2003 http://www.cucs.udg.mx/INBOX/congresoibero.htm
44 Arguments and Facts, 49, 2003.
45 Ibid., 46, 2003
46 Ibid., 49, 2003
47 Ibid., 46, 2003
48 See, for instance, a publication of F.M.Dostoevsky Children's Foundation, "Black book of crimes against children in St.Petersburg. Facts, documents, comments ." Ed. by L.M.Semashko, A.I.Anoshin, G.A.Kryshnya, F.S.Makhov; St.Petersburg, 1994. Unfortunately, over the past 10 years the children's situation, far from improving, became considerably worse.
49 Laws strengthening the rights of homeless children provides a logical transition to the children’s suffrage law, which will eliminate the reasons for children’s homelessness.
50 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 21, 2003, “ 7,000 MPS students reported homeless..." by Georgia Pabst
51 Let's pay attention to this, apparently paradoxical fact that poverty of 80% of pupils is acknowledged in a large city of the richest country of the world! This means, the riches of the country do not translate into riches for its children. That the riches of the country co-exist with poverty of its children speaks about discrimination and
neglect to children even in rich countries. This true has opened still great Janusz Korczak.
52 It is a remarkable appeal to a society and citizens, but it is a utopia without children's suffrage. To rich America, as well as to poor Russia, the problem of poverty of children cannot be solved without this right.
53 In the USA, as well as in Russia, many governmental departments are engaged in problems of childhood, deprived of organizational and legal unity, making their efforts inefficient and scattered, and shifting the responsibility from one to another. It leaves problems of childhood unsolved. only children’s suffrage can ensure unity, necessary for them, and also for the efficiency of their work.
54 If the families of the Australian natives and their children are not integrated in the state, if the natives do not participate in elections, then, really, their problems are not decided by classical methods, including children’s suffrage. It is a special problem. How many of such children in the world?