Towards a society without age discrimination

During the last few decades the equality of rights between men and women, the equality of rights for people with different colors of skin as well as for people with and without handicap has been stipulated by law. We all know that there are problems with the implementation in practice, but in principle it is clear: No one shall be discriminated against because of some attribute he or she has no influence on. A large part of the population, about 20%, is discriminated against because of another attribute they have no influence on: their age. We are speaking about children and young people.

The legal situation of children is comparable with that of serfs or captives – even though many people deny this. The status of children is approximately the same as that of women in the 19th century. In the society of today children are not perceived as people, which they indubitably are, – human beings, autonomous beings – but as objects; and that is how they are treated: as objects of instruction, of discipline and of protection.

Politically they are powerless. They are not allowed to choose the people that govern them; they don’t have the right to vote. There may be many flaws in democracy – parliamentarianism might be one of them – but certainly a very crucial flaw is, that in Germany alone 20% of the population – in some other countries even more than 50% – are excluded from democratic participation solely because of their age, just as in the past it was seen as legitimate to exclude people because of their sex, the color of their skin or their property. This lack of political participation has resulted in children being excluded from large parts of public life.

However, not only in politics, but also in the family young people are dependent on the adults’ goodwill. Just as men once did in relation to their wifes, parents still have the right to discipline children, to mould them as they like and to deprive them of their self-determination.

For this reason we, the KinderRÄchTsZÄnker (aka K.R.Ä.T.Z.Ä.), demand equal rights between the generations – in the family as well as in the whole of society, and therewith the repeal of all discriminatory age limits. We also demand that compulsory schooling – the way children are unescapably forced to go to school – be replaced by a right to self-determined education; parents must not be able to override this right to learn in freedom, not under compulsion, in a part-time prison.

We believe that equality of rights for children, young people, adults and old people is an important step towards a fairer society. We consider the treatment of children to be a crucial question, since at the beginnings of their lives all humans are children, and all had the experience of not being really taken seriously, being excluded and having very limited human rights. Someone who has never, or only sporadically, experienced values like freedom and democracy, will hardly stick up for them. Right-wing extremism is one symptom, although an extreme one. We must fight against the causes of such behaviour. Social peace is impossible without equal rights for everyone – and that includes children.