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Letter from the editor | 296

Legal subjects

The idea that children are individuals who deserve the same rights as adults, as well as other specific rights based on their inherent vulnerability, is a recent one. Previously seen as belonging to the family or the State, the notion that they deserve particular attention grew in popularity as we learned more about childhood development, understanding that children should not be subjected to unsanitary or degrading conditions.

The key milestone in this process was the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly in 1989, exactly 30 years after the Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Minimum standards were established to protect children’s rights, recognizing their social, economic, political, civil, and cultural roles. It is the most ratified international document—the USA is the only country of the UN’s 196 member states that has not embraced the treaty.

At the time, Brazil was creating its new Federal Constitution (1988), which adopted a philosophical grounding in line with the UN guidelines, encompassing all children and not just those in “irregular situations.” Before then, the country had taken a more assistentialist and repressive approach, where the State was only responsible in the event of abandonment or delinquency. The Mandate for the Integral Protection of Children and Adolescents, established in article 227 of the Brazilian constitution, identifies children as legal subjects.

The corresponding law for implementing this constitutional article is Law 8.069/90, known as the Child and Adolescent Statute, which is now 30 years old. The statute details children’s fundamental rights and the mechanisms needed to guarantee these rights. This valuable legal instrument, the advances it has provided over the last three decades, and the current challenges it faces are the subject of this issue’s cover story.


The novel coronavirus continues to advance aggressively, surpassing the undesirable milestone of one million deaths worldwide. Our coverage of the pandemic continues with regular updates on our website and three articles on the topic in this issue. Vaccine development is continuing at an accelerated pace, but any potential success is being threatened by political pressure for immediate results. The difficulties of calculating COVID-19’s mortality rate, which is essential to responding to the pandemic, are addressed on page 22, and the impacts of past pandemics on architecture and urbanism are discussed on page 26.

This edition is punctuated by the celebration of many important events: starting with the 30 years of the Child and Adolescent Statute, continuing through 100 years of UFRJ, including an interview with biologist Radovan Borojevic on page 40, and then onto a commemoration of 20 years of FAPESP’s Biota program, which influenced public policies on the conservation and restoration of green spaces, and finally, the centenaries of writer Clarice Lispector and chemist Otto Gottlieb.

The Brazilian astronomical community recently lost an influential researcher in the field of astrophysics and an advocate for science. João Steiner was directly involved in efforts to ensure local access to major international telescopes. Another loss was psychopharmacologist Elisaldo Carlini, a pioneer in the study of medicinal plants and cannabis compounds.