1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.
2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.
States Parties shall ensure that:
(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;
(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;
(c) Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances;
(d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.*
Islam has taught me so many things over the years. One lesson, in particular, plays in my head throughout the day as a constant and necessary reminder: My soul has rights over my ego. I still remember the first time I read that. Over the years, I have expanded it to include the idea that my body has rights over my mind, my mind has rights over my body, and even that my inner child (she’s six) has rights over me (the 12-year old me and the adult me).
I was crushingly self-critical and dealt with devastating self-loathing for many years, but learning how to be compassionate helped me to be much kinder to others, and eventually, to myself. I had not really thought about making myself a recipient of my own kindness and compassion before. It was so natural to judge that kid in me who just wanted a chocolate chip cookie, to jump in a dirty puddle, to stick my tongue out and make faces at other little kids, and all the other odd things I felt urges to do as an adult.
In writings about childhood trauma, they say that a part of the person can remain at the age at which the trauma occurred. In my case, it’s true. However, I was able to turn it from a “bad” thing that needed correcting to a great thing by simply accepting it. Having a body-mind disconnect helped me readily see and understand the disconnect between the adult me and the 6-year old me. The idea of total integration was not a reality yet; so, I decided to treat her like a younger sibling or daughter, give her voice, and listen to her needs. We made a pact to respect one another and realize that we both knew best in certain circumstances.
As the adult me, I had much for which to apologize. One evening while researching for a paper, I happened upon the text from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. While reading it, I had an epiphany: This text is a great guide for recognizing and respecting the rights of my inner child. Though we share one physical body, she is human too. I decided that I would give her what she was demanding–the rights of any child. As a feminist, this was extremely exciting because I could “raise” her and speak with her from that point-of-reference. It was also sobering to recognize how I had been using an imperialist gaze to look down on her. I was all about standing in solidarity with other women while neglecting to do the same with the lost and lonely little girl within.
Adhering to just the two articles above has changed me so much for the better. My inner child no longer has to fight me because she knows she will get all she needs from me now. My physical daughter will be three in November, God willing, and I see how much she loves when my inner child is at the helm. This is exactly how I envisioned it being without knowing for sure I was embarking on a worthwhile journey. Even for people without a history of trauma, an inner child needing to have its voice heard and rights recognized, or a physical child(ren) or even student(s); adhering to just these two articles could change your life, or at least your relationship with a young person.
Jameelah X. Medina, Ph.D., is an educator, author, and orator. Her latest book, ABCs of Living a Good Life: 26 Things I’ve Learned along the Way, is available for free on her website: www.jameelahmedina.com. She is also the owner and operator of Dr. J’s Apothecary where she makes all-natural products for health and wellness.