We can see this in the following article, published in Zig Zag in I have seen those poor children, barefoot on a floor that burns, dirty, covered by rags; I have seen them playing in the streets in heaps of dirt, looking at life with a strange nostalgia. They are living a cruel nightmare, they bear the weight of a chain they don't deserve, they are sad at an age when other children, almost all children, are happy and the kings of their homes".
But this appreciation of laughter and play overtook other spheres as well. One author even proposed not to ban children in prison from their childhood, "trifling their honest laughter, impeding their plays".
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Even in prison, "the child has to laugh and play", "the child must always be a child" However, there were no major changes in the law, though there were some proposals to better the conditions of unlawful children. The proposal was very modest in its consequences, as it only tried to establish a mechanism to assure the payment of alimony which didn't affect the condition of being an unlawful child. However, this idea was not welcomed and the situation remained unchanged The subject of unlawfulness was largely discussed in the first three decades of the 20 th century.
At least 22 legal texts were written about this subject between and , most of them between and Several of these were only descriptive and detailed the legal consistency of the norms, but some of them were critical towards the existing laws for different reasons, and suggested changes All of them acknowledged the need to maintain the difference between lawful and unlawful children, but proposed some reforms, sometimes to make the norm coherent, or to make the condition of natural child more accesible or to eliminate the categories between unlawful children.
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He also criticized the fact that the legal proof to establish unlawful paternity was denied both for the payment of alimony and attaining the condition of natural child , a norm that had been copied from napoleonic legislation. After a century of discussions about that prohibition, in his opinion it was more than proven that the measure was unfair and inefficient Legitimacy had increased since the signing of the Civil Code.
In , there was an average of illegitimate children for every thousand born, and in that number increased to Though this increment could not be blamed completely to a real deepening of the phenomenon, it was used as an argument against the effectiveness of the legislation Though there were no important institutional changes, illegitimacy began to decline at the end of the decade. Letelier, another author, also critizised the fact that paternity depended on the father's will.
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Recognition of maternity was a much easier procedure, which showed discrimination. In his opinion, the initial arguments weren't valid difficulty to prove paternity, avoiding unfounded accusations, containing ilegitimacy, avoiding a public scandal. According to Letelier the social effects of this were extremely harmful infant mortality, abortions, infanticide, abandonment. There was social interest in not leaving these children in abandonment.
To reverse this situation, he proposed to regulate the inquiry of paternity, and to give civil marriage preponderance over the religious one These and other texts justified a reform, but they were in favor of diminishing the legal differences, without eliminating them completely. At the Pan American Convention of the Child, two papers advocated a legal reform to allow for the investigation of paternity.
Finally it was agreed to propose that this investigation be allowed, but with certain conditions. It wouldn't be allowed if the mother had misbehaved and the procedure would only be authorized in some situations Though these discussions went on, actual changes were small. The only exception to this was the law of work accidents of , which gave shared benefits for all children, be they lawful or unlawful The government, for its part, tried to stimulate the contracting of legal marriage through a policy of "persuasion" by the civil servants of the Civil Registry Only in some of the reforms that were posed ten years before, were introduced Though there was public interest in the issue of child abandonment, there was no special preoccupation in giving adoption legal status.
During the Convention on Protection of Infancy, a symposium by Alejandro Lira was in favor of legislating about this The issue was discussed in the Pan American conventions of the child in , , and During the latter, a Chilean delegate expounded about the subject and proposed a legal change But the idea didn't receive much response, as didn't a law project presented in June by Member of Parliament Rafael Moreno.
This void in the Civil Code was only filled in There was also no response to the project to rise the minimum age for sexual consent, which continued to be 12 years Slowly the issue of the rights of the child was taking force outside of the circle of experts. The topic was included in the following editions of the Manual para las madres Mothers'manual , by Lorenza. Though this publication usually gave practical advice about pregnancy, methods to rear children, feeding and childrens diseases, the first article referred to "The Rights of the Child", without following any of the already circulating texts.
The first right was to "be born with a healthy body and a clear mind"; the second "to be loved and respected as an individual; [ Though the concept of the rights of the child was somehow well received among intellectuals and politicians of the beginning of the 20 th century, the situation of children and the strong ideological debate caused the issue to develop in contradictory and unstable ways.
The spreading of the rights of the child met with different forms of resistance. Some had their origin in the radicalized atmosphere of the time, which could not conceive that the extreme sensibility towards poor children coexisted with a great indifference to the demands of their worker parents. The poor areas most related to the revolutionary left didn't think that the actions of the State or philantrophy, much less the declarations on childrens rights, could solve the marginality of poor children.
For that reason, these declarations were scarcely refered to. One of the texts that commented on the first declaration of the rights of the child known in Chile, in , is an example of this point of view.
The article was directed to "the poor children" and noted on the lack of consistency of the declaration, made by "brainy humanitarian - educationalists" "just for fun". Abandoned children were assured that they would have a right to the sun, air and food, but "with the detail that, if overtaken by hunger you take a bread to feed yourselves or a piece of cloth to cover your flesh, then those brainy sirs that recognized your rights in theory, will call you uneducated, rascals and other epithets that the reigning hypocresy applies to those who have nothing, and they will egg the police on to arrest you as if it was the most natural thing in the world".
Poor children with a home and responsible parents didn't have it any better. If their parents learned that their children had a right to life and demanded an increment of salary "those same sirs, in the name of order and established legality, will call them demanding and disruptive" and if they took something to alleviate the hunger of their little ones, they would call them as thieves.
Poor children lived emaciated by diseases, "afflicted and tormented by the desire to posses a toy or little suit", like the children of the rich. Clothing, food and toys are banned to them by the institutions that are respected and revered by the same sirs that at one time proclaimed your rights to prove that they walk along with the current of the century" But, even though the formal declaration of rights wasn't well received by anarchists and socialists, these groups were openly in favor of limiting parental authority, erradicating punishment, democratize schools; better the material conditions and pursuing children's happiness in quite a radical manner.
In fact, it was mainly inside anarchist and communists groups that the most radical approach to the rights of the child was forged. They even considered promoting active ways of social participation and recognizing the child's autonomy. In this sense, the political left was both dependent of the romantic ideal of childhood which translated in their demand of more protection of the child as of a broad model of democracy that considered limiting all ways of inequality between people based not only on a difference of class, but also of sex, ethnic groups and age.
Obviously, according to them this fight would finally be solved with the triumph of the revolution, but many proposed a substantial advance in this matter through education. That was the proposal, for example, of Francisco Ferrer. At the opposite side, more traditional groups were critical of the new status of infancy, particularly of the excessively condescending treatment of children. Several texts recounted in an ironic or openly critical tone, the new condition created by "the king of the house" and the loss of paternal authority Roxane, one of the best known figures preoccupied with children, lamented in the predominant tendency to please children without boundaries, a process that annulled all principle of authority.
In his opinion, there were plentiful "spoiled" girls and boys, who were selfish and whimsical This tone makes one suppose that cultural resistances were important, and that this change of conduct didn't become widespread. In , Ernesto Montenegro compared the way in which children were treated in Chile and the United Status and remarked upon the differences: in our cities, a mother holding her child didn't receive the attentions that were common in North American society, as he had been able to confirm Some sectors still questioned motherly love.
For example, they reproached the high classes for still widely using wet nurses, and considered this to be an evident proof of the little interest mothers had in their children As for the popular sectors, Luis Calvo Mackenna spoke out against the "astonishing, disconcerting and brutal indifference with which the mothers of the common people come to" the House of Orphans "to definitely abandon their children, many of them of a few months of age". This indifference was reflected in the "unconceivable calm" with which they insisted on having their children accepted; the "crushing coldness" with which they saw them disappear out of their sight for ever and gave them up "as a thing they give" for they conceived their children as property; "they reclaimed the knitted jersey and little crocheted boots that warmed the child as if it was the most natural thing in the world, all without any gesture of remorse, compassion of pain" Calvo Mackenna questioned the idealization that in his opinion was made of "the kindness of the mothers of the lower classes", though he admitted that the large majority of them had "a high level of affection" for their children.
A generalized exception "would be an aberration of nature". However, his experience in policlinics, hospitals , Gota de Leche Milk drop , an organization that distributed milk and other necessities to poor children , asylums and orphanages, "in real contact with the people, the uncultured and miserable people of the outskirts and suburbs", taught him a different reality:.
I'm not saying that these facts are frequent, but I'm stating that they aren't as exceptional as is generally thought" These "denaturalized" mothers that were capable of this "tremendous harshness" with their children of a few years of age, didn't have the least compassion towards the newborn, "that new being they don't even feel belongs to them and don't even feel the least shadow of affection for" As one can see, according to this doctor's evaluation large part of the responsibility befell on the mother, as if the father didn't exist.
According to Calvo Mackenna, though the social context of poverty explained the abandonment of children in orphanages, the mothers' lack of interest was also important. In any case, the testimony of Calvo Mackenna was credible because he didn't generalize.
In the public sphere, public collections destined to poor children and social fundraising activities, received a large amount of means and filled up pages in magazines and diaries. Initially a sphere of socialization for the higher classes became a massive activity, with a large participation. However, this process also caused resistances because of the excess of public collections The governor of Santiago regretted the scarce response he received when he asked for the help of the higher classes, which was a big difference from the climate that surrounded the Pan American Convention of the Child.
In an interview published in Zig Zag , Alberto Mackenna reproached this inconsequence. For two years he did everything possible to give protection to 50 boys the police had picked up from the street and nothing worked out. A lady of high society even rented them a miserable place for a very high price. They talked, organized, published articles, celebrated a convention of the child, named delegates, national and international ambassadors. Everything came out of this initiative except what we asked for and needed: money, help. This has to be said" At first, it showed preoccupation for the social danger this entailed a focus of delinquency and the loss of beings who were potentially useful to society.
Then, it showed interest in the children themselves: "The future destiny of these poor wretches isn't less worth considering. With no responsibility for being the way they are, they have a right to society's preoccupation, to have society save them and take them away of the somber luck they seem predestined to". But then it paid attention to the esthetic consequences they caused: "And they are also a disagreeable and discrediting stain for society.
Dirty, in rags, cadging, with a crude way of talking, they give a not very flattering idea of the society they marginally live in, but to which they actually belong" The interest in children themselves seemed to vanish rapidly. Reversing the high infant mortality was a central objective of public policies since the end of the 19 th century, and this tendency increased with the surge of pediatrics.
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Here there are also multiple interests at stake: international prestige, the strengthening of the nation's economic capacity and the stronger value placed on infancy. Despite the high levels of mortality, the State's strategy didn't consider diminishing the high birth rates. On the contrary, the size of families was seen as a factor of progress. The pro birth policy still prevailed. Even the Chilean partisans to eugenics were careful to propose control measures and not to mention abortion, sterilization nor the use of birth control techniques Birth control was a subject that arose simultaneously with the valorization of infancy, though there is no direct link between the two.
Some feminist currents made it into their banne r, just like some anarchist and socialist groups. An article published in in the workers periodical La Palanca, of feminist and socialist tendencies, defended birth control Many of their leaflets circulated in Chile, among them Strike of wombs!
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Practical measures to avoid numerous families , with several reissues , by the anarchist Luis Bulffi, and Conscientious generation , by Frank Sutor. This illustrated work included "prints and anatomical figures, apparatus and objects of sexual preservation" The Spanish editorial informed about the use of the "uterine shutter", already invented by then According to their proposal, the defense of the child, woman and humanity was guaranteed by a new attitude towards reproduction. Birth control would make the liberation of humanity possible. Though we don't know the level of acceptance of these campaigns, propaganda did not cease in the following years.
In and the anarchist periodical El Sembrador The Sower included texts in favor of birth control The polemic text was blamed for conspiring against morals and honest customs, as it showed birth control techniques in detail Birth control wasn't accepted by some social areas.
That mother fulfilled her womanly function and motherhood strengthened her for life's blows.