Parental Consent and Children's Rights in Europe:  A Balancing Act


Three recent European Court of Human Rights cases of discrimination in education against Roma raise the question of what conditions must be present for parents to give “meaningful” consent in decisions pertaining to their children and whether such consent can be meaningful when a fundamental freedom is at stake.  The paper investigates the nature and limits of parental consent and makes the case for a “threshold” above which respect for the dignity of the parents requires meaningful consent for any decision pertaining to their children and below which respect for the human rights of the child prohibits interference with the exercise of a right.  Identifying the exact location of the threshold in any specific case requires local-level public deliberation; insisting that decisions meet those threshold conditions, and enforcing their recognition, is a job for the Court.