Parliament on Thursday passed with unanimous consent a new child protection law with provisions to make vaccination mandatory, prohibit child marriages and criminalise failure to report child abuse.
Parents would not be legally allowed to deny vaccinating their children and the legal age of consent for marriage would be raised to 18 years. Police officers would be authorised to enter private residences without a court warrant if there is reasonable grounds to suspect a child’s life is in danger.
Submitted on behalf of the government by Addu Meedhoo MP Rozaina Adam, the bill also proposes the creation of an advisory council called Child and Family Protection Services as well as residential facilities providing alternate care to all children in need across the country. A Children’s Ombudsman would be elected to the Human Rights Commission to monitor application of laws concerning minors.
The state would also be required to identify children who are not sent to school and ensure that they receive an education.
Once ratified, the new law will replace the 1991 child protection law and bring the domestic legal framework in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The updated law would also prohibit passing the death penalty against a child. The death sentence cannot be passed even after a minor convicted of a crime turns 18.
In accordance with Islamic sharia, the Maldives’ family law allows children under the age of 18 who have reached puberty to get married with a special permission from the family court. In 2016, the Supreme Court amended judicial rules to require the lower court to seek its approval in writing before registering marriages involving minors.
A juvenile justice bill was also passed with unanimous consent at Thursday’s sitting. The government-sponsored legislation proposed increasing the age of criminal responsibility to 15 years. Under existing laws, children older than 10 years of age can be liable for crimes with punishments prescribed in the Quran as well as murder and drug-related offences.
Once the bill is ratified, children under 15 years of age cannot be prosecuted for criminal offences.
The new law would also “establish the juvenile justice system separate from the criminal justice system, with a set of officials specialised in the juvenile justice system, encompassing a Juvenile Court established at Malé City and corresponding regional divisions,” according to the president’s office.
It would also require the formation of a new department of juvenile justice and detention centres within 18 months of ratification.
The passage of the two important bills for children – The Child Rights Protection Bill, and the Juvenile Justice Bill is a key and celebration-worthy milestone for the Maldives, as we mark the 30th anniversary of the #CRC. https://t.co/luMkJSiOzR
— UNICEF Maldives (@UNICEFMaldives) November 14, 2019