Child Rights Protection Bill passed: Vaccinations mandatory, child marriages outlawed

A Parliament session underway. (Photo/Parliament)

The Child Rights Protection Bill submitted to the Parliament on behalf of the Maldivian administration by Addu Meedhoo MP Rozaina Adam has been passed by unanimously in today's’ Parliamentary session.

The bill passed with the vote of 66 parliamentarians and would make it mandatory for parents to vaccinate children and outlaw the option of rejecting vaccinations by the parents.

The new legislature on child rights protection is designed to remedy the inconsistencies between the current Child Rights Protection Act – enacted in 1991 – and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It is aimed at facilitating greater protection of child rights in the Maldives; and establishes and specifies the rights of children, the responsibilities of children, the responsibilities of parents, the responsibilities of parents, and others.

A parliamentary session underway. (Photo/Parliament)

The bill saw some changes in the Committee phase. They include:

1. Prohibition of the death penalty for children

The bill prohibits the application of the death penalty on children.

The bill states that since children are not capable of thinking on their own, and are protected and to be assisted by the state, family and the community under the law, the death penalty should not be imposed on them.

Children would be protected from the death penalty for crimes committed and found guilty of when they were underage (age of 18) even after they come of the legal age.

If a child is found guilty of a crime that carries the death penalty, the sentence must be revised to a sentence that carries no more than three fourth of the next largest penalty set for the crime.

2. Court orders not required in case of danger to child

The bill also provides powers to Police and Child and Family Protection Services (CFPS) to enter a property without a court order, if there is reasonable ground for Police and CFPS to believe that a child’s life is in danger, or to enquire about the status of the child, or by police to carry out an investigation of such a case, or by CFPS to conduct a social enquiry and assessment of the situation.

The bill also allows Police to enter a property without a court order if Police attain evidence that delaying the action can cause danger to the child. In such cases, the approval of an officer of the rank of Sub-Inspector or higher is required to enter the property.

Children are also extended protections if the child gives testimony or witness statements.

3. State care set as the last resort

Ensuring that there are no other options before moving the child to alternative care, away from the family is made mandatory under the bill. If a child is moved to state care, a course action regarding the child must be undertaken within at least five days, under the bill.

4. Failure to report child abuse is also a crime

The bill also designated the failure to report child abuse, exploitation of children, sexual abuse or grooming for such purposes as a crime.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih meeting with the students of Maafannu Madharusa. (Photo/President's Office)

What else is included in the bill?

Rights established under the bill includes the right to equality, the right to education, the right to life, the right to physical and intellectual development, the right to care, the right to protection, the right to protection against sexual abuse and exploitation, and the right to protection against physical abuse and negligence.

It also established the right to protection against adverse social and cultural effects, the right to register their birth, the right to nationality, the right to maintain their individuality, the right to know the identity of their birth parents, the right to care, the right to physical wellbeing.

The new bill prohibits child marriages. It establishes that child marriages are prohibited as children under the age of 18 years haven’t achieved the physical and intellectual maturity of an adult, and have the right to special assistance and protection from the State, family, and community.

"Fiyavathi" Children's shelter located in Hulhumale'. (Sun File Photo)

It also prohibits the employment of children under the age of 16 years unless it is for an educational purpose. Partaking in the family business is established as an exemption to the rule.

The bill establishes that children under the age of 15 years cannot be held criminally responsible as they lack the physical and intellectual maturity of adults.

It establishes the registration of birth of children, education, and upbringing of children, expenditure and liability for harm caused by children to others as responsibilities of parents.