Chile: Parents win right to make education decisions for their children

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The constitutional court of Chile has ruled in favor of the rights of parents to choose the kind of education their children receive, preventing the government from imposing a secular worldview in sex education and other topics. 

The victory at the Chilean Constitutional Tribunal comes in a challenge to three key provisions of a comprehensive children’s rights bill, which was originally submitted by former President Michelle Bachelet but was passed six years later, says human rights group ADF International, which worked with local allies in Chile who represented lawmakers in their fight against the proposal.

The provisions would have “undermined the fundamental and prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that their children shall receive,” the group said in a statement.

By a 6-4 ruling vote, the judges struck down provisions that would have infringed upon parental rights. And seven of the 10 judges decided that compulsory comprehensive sexuality education that is “secular and non-sexist” is unconstitutional, as it conflicts with parents' rights.

“The state should not interfere with parent-child relationships,” the group’s Director of Advocacy in Latin America, Tomás Henríquez, said, adding that the ruling “sets a strong precedent for the protection of parental rights in Latin America.”

Henríquez continued, “A majority of judges confirmed that the government cannot impose a worldview on religious and moral issues, nor interfere without grave reasons in the decision-making of parents when it comes to directing their children’s upbringing and the exercise of their rights. Parental rights are particularly protected by Chilean and international law.”

The case focused on provisions prioritizing children’s “progressive autonomy” over parental oversight and the demand that sexual education be “secular and non-sexist,” which would exclude the possibility of teaching the subject matter from different religious and moral perspectives, ADF India explained.

This constitutional court has affirmed Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

The court has also affirmed the specific protection of the right of parents to have their children educated in accordance with their moral, philosophical and religious convictions, under the International Covenants on Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the First Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, the group pointed out.

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