Pres ratifies child protection bills

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Wednesday ratified two bills related to the protection of children and adolescents into law.

The bills are the Amendment Bill to the Child Rights Protection Act and the Bill on Juvenile Justice. The date of ratification coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Child Rights Protection bill includes several amendments and new additions to protect children from discrimination, bias, harm, cruel punishment, neglect and physical and emotional abuse. The bill also carries privileges granted to children such as the right to education, safety and security, learning, and special needs children are granted appropriate rights to better preserve their wellness.

Under the bill, the legal age of consent for marriage is raised to 18 years of age. Additionally, all children below the age of 15 are protected against all regular judicial punishments, including the death penalty, and prescribes a fast resolution to allow reforming juvenile delinquents into productive members of society through rehabilitative facilities.

The Juvenile Justice bill will establish the juvenile justice system separate from the criminal justice system, with a set of officials specialized in the juvenile justice system, encompassing a Juvenile Court established at Male' City and corresponding regional divisions. According to the new rights being granted, all children under the age of 15 are protected from being penalized under criminal law.

The bill also directs the creation of a Department of Juvenile Justice as a Government entity with its own set mandate, under the jurisdiction of the Home Ministry. The bill also requires the establishment of juvenile detention centres within 18 months of ratification.

A council for the protection of child rights, 'Child and Family Protection Services', with a mandate to protect children's rights and be the primary aid for any child in need of protection will be created under the Child Rights Protection bill. The council will also serve as an advisory body to pertinent Ministers and assist in the creation of laws and policies related to child rights. Another new addition is the inclusion of residential facilities providing alternate care to all children in need, to be instigated in different areas of the Maldives with a list of dedicated staff.

Under this bill, a Children's Ombudsman will also be elected to the Human's Rights Commission with the task of impartially protecting child rights and freedoms, and to continuously monitor the application of all components of the law for all children.

Parliament passed the two bills at its 65th sitting of the third session held on 14 November 2019. Following ratification, the two bills have now been published in the Government Gazette.