n Malawi Law Journal - Childhood under Malawian laws as the Constitution becomes of age




The year 1994 marked the beginning of a new constitutional era for Malawians in general but, most importantly, for children as the future custodians of the Malawi nation. Those who were born in 1994 by international standards became adults in 2012 as the Constitution itself became of age. Thus, the year 2012 marked a significant year for children in Malawi as the age of 18 is internationally recognised as the end of childhood. However, despite the Constitution attaining the age of 18, it offers very limited protection to children as far as the definition of a child is concerned as the only section providing for children's rights applies to persons aged below 16. Much as this position falls far below international standards, it has regrettably been replicated in the reform of child-related laws in Malawi wherein a child is defined as a person below the age of 16. Thus, children aged between 16 and 17 cannot benefit from the special protections for children heralded by the new constitutional era. As a result, although we may talk of the Constitution becoming of age in 2012, by Malawian standards it became of age at 16, in the year 2010. This article underscores the significance of expanding the definition of a child to include those aged between 16 and 18 years. It highlights the need for the enhanced protection of children by establishing minimum ages of childhood that are compatible with international, regional acomparative domestic standards. In particular, Malawi should expand the general definition of a child to 18, as well as revise and increase the minimum ages of marriage and of criminal responsibility, both of which are significantly low relative to international, regional and emerging comparative domestic standards.


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