Teachers as human rights defenders: strengthening HRE and safeguarding theory to prevent child sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is a public health issue with long-term consequences for children’s lives and education. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a key reference point in safeguarding, increasingly incorporated into domestic law. This article aims to strengthen safeguarding theory and practice by reviewing human rights education (HRE) theory and aligning it with care-based ethics. It proposes a renewed focus on HRE in teacher education that examines the teacher’s role and professional responsibilities, strengthens rights-based knowledge, and explores the transformative power of rights. By empowering teachers with skills to recognise and act on harmful sexual behaviour (HSB), they can become powerful human rights defenders, protecting children against child-on-child and adult-on-child abuse. Drawing on empirical data on teachers’ understandings of HSB, we apply theory, cautioning against an under-theorised approach that over-relies on rights knowledge or children’s ability to claim their rights in an emotionally charged arena with asymmetrical power relations.
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