The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and United Kingdom Law

By David Harris; Sarah Joseph | Go to book overview

15
Family and Child Rights

SANDY GHANDHI*


INTRODUCTION

1994 has been designated by the UN as International Year of the Family. It is thus singularly appropriate that any study of the United Kingdom's compliance with the standards imposed by the Covenant should take into account our obligations under Articles 23 and 24 of this instrument. These are the Articles which stipulate the engagements of states parties in the area commonly referred to as 'family' and 'child' law. It should be noted that the stipulations in the Covenant which relate particularly to the rights of children have been supplemented now by a specific international treaty: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989.1

In the last seven or eight years family law in England and Wales has undergone some fundamental changes. Among the most important of the statutory measures are the Family Law Reform Act 1987, the Children Act 1989, and the Child Support Act 1991. In addition, separate taxation for spouses has been introduced. The winds of change have blown through the common law as well. For instance, the decision of the House of Lords in Gillick v. West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority2 redefined the relationship between parents and their children. Whether or not such developments enhance the observance of our international obligations will have to be assessed; certainly, some of the changes introduced by the Children Act 1989 were prompted by the adverse findings of the Strasbourg institutions under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Similarly, Scots law has seen certain important legislation in the area of

____________________
*
I wish to acknowledge the debt of gratitude I owe to a number of my colleagues, especially Lizzie Cooke and Sola Coard. I would also like to thank Mr John Eekelaar, the editor of the International Journal of Law and the Family, for permitting me to draw on some of the material used in my article for that journal in 1991.
1
See McGoldrick, D., "'The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child'" ( 1991) 5 Int. J. Law Fam.132; Walsh, B., "'The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: A British View'" ( 1991) 5 Int. J. Law Fam.170; "'Symposium: UN Convention on Children's Rights'" ( 1990) 12 HRQ134; "'UN Draft Convention on the Rights of the Child'" ( 1989) 12 NY Law Sch. Jnl HR1. See generally Van G. Bueren, The International Law on the Rights of the Child ( Dordrecht, 1994).
2
[ 1986] AC 112.

-491-

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