Professor: Public Policy on the Family Should Put Kids’ Rights First

The Common Good of Children Takes Precedence in Debate on Family and Marriage

ROME ( — Focusing on the rights of children could resolve some of the ideological debates surrounding the family, said a professor and ex-diplomat from Norway.

Janne Haaland Matlary explained her position today at the opening session of the congress focusing on “Rights and Responsibilities of the Family,” being held in Rome today and Saturday. It is organized by the International Federation for Family Development.

Matlary, a professor of political science at the University of Oslo and formerly Norway’s state secretary for foreign affairs, gave a speech entitled “Can the Family be Defined by Western Politics?”

The professor contented that two opposing perspectives characterize ideological debate on the family. One holds that fatherhood and motherhood are mere social constructions and therefore subject to change. The other claims that the family is a natural institution and thus persists in all cultures and societies.

According to Matlary, both perspectives debate the political definition of marriage and family, contesting what pertains to the state and what pertains to the nature of the human person.

U.N. conferences are privileged arenas for this confrontation, Matlary said.

The professor proposed a return to the classical question of the common good as a solution for these ideological debates.

She specifically considered the common good of future generations. “Perhaps a first solution to the irreconcilable state of the positions delineated in this conference lies in accepting the fact that children have rights that adults do not have, and these rights come before the rights of adults,” she said.

Children need care and stability, Matlary explained. If states were to focus on children’s right to stable parents and families rather than adults’ right to marriage, she added, the debate would move away from individualistic goals.

Copyright 2007, Innovative Media, Inc. Posted with permission from

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