General Course Information

1.1 Course details

Course code: LLAW3068
Course name: Rights of the Child in International and Domestic Law
Programme offered under: LLB Programme
Semester: Second
Designated research course: Yes
Specialization: Not applicable
Prerequisites / Co-requisites: No
Course offered to non-law students: No
Credit point value: 6 credits

1.2 Course description

The international human rights framework protects the rights of all individuals. The rights-protection scheme has been extended to cover individuals who belong to certain groups to address the specific nature of the threats and challenges experienced by them as a result of their social, economic, political, cultural, religious, ethnic, racial, national, immigration, gender or other status which renders them a special class requiring specific protections on the part of the state. Examples include, persons with disabilities, victims of human trafficking, violence or forced labour, victims of discrimination or violence on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religion or other minority status, among other groups, that might be targeted for deprivation due to disparities in power, discrimination rendering them the subject of exploitation, neglect, abuse and violence.

Children as a group have long been in a precarious position given their particular vulnerabilities due to their age and development. Although the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) remains one of the most widely ratified international human rights instruments, state parties have taken diverse approaches to the protection and implementation of children rights in the domestic context. A number of factors impact the uptake and implementation of the principles of the UNCRC into domestic law. In Asia, for example, a confluence of cultural values and religious norms and traditions have influenced legal systems in their conceptualization and protection of human rights. At times, the understanding of international legal obligations under the UNCRC has diverged on the basis of arguments pertaining to Asian values or cultural and religious norms. This has increasingly required a critical engagement with and understanding of these arguments to situate them properly within the context of an international human rights regime which boasts of its universal appeal across nation states. More crucially, these arguments warrant greater scrutiny to ensure that state parties are addressing oppressive practices, regulating state and non-state actors in ensuring that domestic law is brought fully into line with the principles of the UNCRC as well as dealing with emergent challenges of the 21st Century in relation to migrating children and the evolving nature of human engagement as a result of technology.

In many parts of the world children continue to face circumstances where they are at risk of violence and exploitation. In some instances, children are recruited into forced labour or as child soldiers in war and conflict. The sale of children for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and labour or their subjection to practices such as infanticide, female genital cutting, forced or child marriage remain pervasive although numerous treaties and conventions prohibit these practices. Despite the ready instrumentalisation of children for commercial and exploitative purposes by those involved in syndicated criminal activities and the use of cultural, religious or moral arguments to continue harmful practices against children, state efforts to combat the systemic causes which enable or exacerbate such exploitation, violence and threats to children physical and psychological safety and bodily integrity, continue to fall short. These threats persist not only at the domestic level but increasingly, on an international and regional level. Children are left at the mercy of their circumstances, vulnerabilities and those with power and control over them.

Intersectionality theory demonstrates how multiple vectors of disadvantage coalesce to create distinctly vulnerable population groups who are at heightened risks of ensnarement into trafficking or exploitation for labour and sex or otherwise, likely to be subjected to harmful cultural or religious practices. In particular, those living in poverty, individuals belonging to minority groups, women and girls, children, persons with disabilities or an unstable immigration status, are all groups subjected to intersectional disadvantage and discrimination. However, such individuals and groups routinely fall through gaps in legal systems at both the domestic and international levels.

This course examines the origins of children rights and adopts a critical approach to examining the UNCRC framework and its implementation in diverse contexts. It adopts a comparative approach to examine best practices and to better understand the reasons for the gaps which persist in different jurisdictions in the implementation of the UNCRC as part of domestic law. The course does so by drawing on select issues and case studies in Hong Kong and more broadly, in Asia. It also draws parallels with comparable jurisdictions to examine prospects for reform and the applicability of comparative jurisprudence and approaches here in Hong Kong. It examines violence against children, especially against girls but increasingly, against young boys, bullying and other forms of abuse and neglect, peace and conflict in societies, forced marriage, juvenile justice, children freedom of expression, religion and identity rights and discrimination against children belonging to minority groups. In particular, the course uses the UNCRC framework as a benchmark for assessing the effectiveness of particular laws and policies and determining the consequences of the gaps and failings of the system. Drawing on the core pillars of the UNCRC such as protection, the best interests of the child and the participatory rights of the child, the course will examine strategies, policies, international legal measures and resources required to render effective child protection for all. The course will introduce and discuss the use of child-rights impact assessment frameworks and a systems-approach towards centering children rights more effectively and systematically to secure child-rights protection across diverse disciplinary domains.

1.3 Course teachers

Name E-mail address Office Consultation
Course convenor Puja Kapai puja@hku.hk CCT 609 By appointment

Learning Outcomes

2.1 Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) for this course

CLO 1 Acquire knowledge of relevant theories about the conceptualisation of children rights, the terminology, instruments and concepts of international and domestic law pertaining to children rights and their locus within the broader discourse of human rights as a special protected class.

CLO 2 Develop a working knowledge of the core principles and mechanisms underlying the relevant international treaties and provisions in different legal systems to implement children rights in a variety of settings including state responsibility for child protection and welfare, education, healthcare, and to critically assess these by evaluating their impact in practice in terms of child-rights protection.

CLO 3 Understand the different aspects of children rights addressed within the Hong Kong legal system and evaluate existing gaps and potential reforms using a international and comparative law lens. Appreciate in particular the exacerbated impact of these gaps for already disadvantaged and marginalised population groups including those living in conditions of deprivation, poverty, ill-health or disability, ethnic, racial or religious minorities, sexual minorities, migrants or refugees and asylum seekers.

CLO 4 Understand the multidisciplinary perspectives in relation to child protection as a matter of law and policy and the need for more effective integration into a systems-approach towards child-rights protection and appreciate the importance of adopting an intersectional lens in identifying legal gaps and developing proposed solutions to remedy them.

CLO 5 Synthesise international legal materials and jurisprudence, critically evaluate and identify approaches that could be adapted to address gaps and failings in Hong Kong existing mechanisms for child-rights protection given the continued relevance of cultural considerations pertaining to the role of the state, family, parent and child within the broader legal system and society.

2.2 LLB Programme Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Please refer to the following link: https://course.law.hku.hk/llb-plo/

2.3 Programme Learning Outcomes to be achieved in this course



3.1 Assessment Summary

Assessment task Due date Weighting Feedback method* Course learning outcomes
Class participation and panel presentations TBC 15% 1, 3 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Reaction paper 5 Apr 2024 20% 1, 2 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Research paper 10 May 2024 65% 1, 3 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
*Feedback method (to be determined by course teacher)
1 A general course report to be disseminated through Moodle
2 Individual feedback to be disseminated by email / through Moodle
3 Individual review meeting upon appointment
4 Group review meeting
5 In-class verbal feedback

3.2 Assessment Detail

To be advised by the course convenor(s).

3.3 Grading Criteria

Please refer to the following link: https://www.law.hku.hk/_files/law_programme_grade_descriptors.pdf

Learning Activities

4.1 Learning Activity Plan

Seminar: 3 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks
Private study time: 9.5 hours / week for 12 teaching weeks

Remarks: the normative student study load per credit unit is 25 ± 5 hours (ie. 150 ± 30 hours for a 6-credit course), which includes all learning activities and experiences within and outside of classroom, and any assessment task and examinations and associated preparations.

4.2 Details of Learning Activities

To be advised by course convenor(s).

Learning Resources

5.1 Resources

Reading materials: Reading materials are posted on Moodle
Core reading list: TBA
Recommended reading list: TBA

5.2 Links

Please refer to the following link: http://www.law.hku.hk/course/learning-resources/