It’s 102 years since Ireland proclaimed equality for all its citizens, isn’t it time we extended that equality to children, the most discriminated against people in the world.
According to the Irish constitution, “you have the right not to have your body, or personhood interfered with” and as a country who wants to become the best country in the world to be a child, shouldn’t we finally include children as full members of society?
Most children in the world and Ireland still don’t have bodily autonomy.
Imagine if you didn’t have a say over when what or how your body was used. This includes hairstyle, clothing, piercings, tattoos, everything.
Imagine if it was up to someone else when and how your hair was cut. Imagine if you weren’t allowed to choose your own clothing, clothes that you’re comfortable in, imagine having to wear clothes to fit in with policy rather than the comfort of your own skin.
How would you feel? How would you react?
This is the reality for many children, and certainly for every child and young person attending a uniform school in Ireland. It’s more about control, discipline and power over than equality, fairness and responsibility. The school uniform is also a British invention.
Children are violated on a daily basis without anyone taking notice, not even children as they have become accustomed to the unethical infringement of their bodies.
Adults have undeserved control over young people’s bodies and choices. Children’s body autonomy must be respected. How do we think young people are going to learn to say no when it really matters if we don’t allow them to say no to a school uniform, to strict dress codes that entirely erases learning about who you are.
Enforced control over children’s bodies is not protective, in fact, it’s counterproductive as it pushes children into a peer culture of having to rebel against adults instead of keeping the necessary attachment to parents.
A parent shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with their children’s bodies and should only be allowed to agree to it in a medical emergency; this includes piercing of children’s ears and forcing children to kiss relatives and friends.
In a country that still allows parents to hit children, what voice do we imagine we have given to young people? When you hit a child, you’re telling the child their body is not their own. When you force children to wear a uniform, you are telling children their bodies are not their own. A child needs to know that their body belongs to them. Having the power to make decisions about the body is also a part of a child’s self-esteem.
Bodily autonomy builds strong people, not strict discipline and dress codes.