We live in a strange world in which parents are allowed to abuse their children in some ways, but other forms of abuse will not be tolerated within the social and legal order.
It comes from a foggy understanding of the concept of ownership.
Do parents own their children, or not?
The first laws against child abuse grew out of a social intolerance for the treatment of animals. There were laws against animal abuse before there was legal recognition of child abuse. Indeed, in some jurisdictions, laws against cruelty to animals were invoked to protect children, including from their own parents.
(Similarly, those same laws were invoked to protect women from exceptional abuse from their husbands. A little abuse was okay, but guys who went overboard were frowned upon – the vestiges of which attitude continue to haunt us, and result in a continued alarming number of domestic assaults and deaths to this day.)
Some people are currently struggling with the conviction of two parents who provided inadequate care for their sick child. The child died of meningitis while the parents, who are now awaiting sentencing that could see them jailed for up to five years, insisted on sticking to the voodoo of naturopathy, a practice of alternative “medicine.”
Meanwhile, the provincial government is crowing about its plan to vaccinate all Grade 9 students with a four-strain meningitis vaccine, a significant improvement over the current single-strain preventative.
All of B.C.s Grade 9 students will be vaccinated against those four strains of meningitis, that is, except for those whose anti-vaxxer parents exempt them from the program – something that they can do with the law’s blessing.
Does anyone else see the irony in this?
Parents can be thrown in jail for denying their child appropriate protection against the ravages of a potentially fatal disease, while other parents have the full legal right to deny their property – er, I mean, children – appropriate protection against the ravages of the same potentially fatal disease.
Is it only illegal when a child dies?
What happens if – or when – a child denied the protection of the province’s new four-strain vaccination course dies of one of those four strains? Will the anti-vaxxer parents then be prosecuted for neglect of their duty to protect their children?
Do we really have to wait until a child dies to find out?
How about the anti-vaxxers whose children may die of measles? Or whooping cough? Or diphtheria? Or any of the other “minor” childhood diseases that have become minor only because of extensive and effective vaccination programs in this country and others?
In light of the recent conviction, should anti-vaxxer parents be prosecuted for pain and suffering of an infected child – before another one dies?