2. Children's Rights in Relation to Religion in Contemporary Sweden: Debates and Arguments
Sanja Nilsson [+]
Gothenburg University, Sweden
Sociocultural and historical circumstances frame our understanding of ”child”, ”childhood”, and “upbringing”, and determine our normative expectations of what these term mean and should mean. Childhoods in Sweden may in some respects be distinct from childhoods in other parts of the world. Children in Sweden live in one of the most secularized societies in the world, in relative economic security, daily encounter a multicultural environment and have access to free education. The social welfare system based on social democratic values has influenced the country, and extends to norms about children and childhood. Sweden was the first country in the world to ban physical disciplining of children in 1979, and has, especially since the beginning of the 20th century, been a predecessor and strong advocate for children’s welfare in terms of democratic child rearing and a high level of self-determination for youth and children. Religious education in Sweden has been a contested issue over the last three decades, and is closely connected to the level of secularization within the country. Proponents of independent schools with religious profiles argue that the rights of parents to exert religious socialization extends to the educational system, while opponents claim the childs right to freedom from religion within the same system. The debate has been especially harsh whenever so called “cult schools” are involved. This introductory chapter will introduce the context for childhood in Sweden and include an examination of the conditions for religious education established in Sweden’s educational system. The United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child and Maria Klasson Sundin’s theory of children’s rights in connection to religion will be described. Finally, newspaper articles that discuss the question of children and religious freedom in Sweden are presented, analyzed and discussed.