Afghan MPs are divided over Child Protection Law

If the Child Protection Law is rejected and children are not taken into account, the Afghan government will fall into chaos and face serious trouble, says Nahid Farid, an MP who represents Herat province.

On December 9, and after two years of delay, the Afghan MPs passed a presidential legislative decree on Child Protection Law, which has 16 chapters and 108 articles. Article 3 states that “those under 18 are considered as children.”

The Child Protection Law raised a debate over definition of childhood among many Afghan MPs. A committee, chaired by MP Amir Khan Yar, was appointed to review it. Mr. Yar, who is the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, on Saturday, 30 December, argued that the Child Protection Law was not applicable as the quorum was not complete during the session in which it was passed. Proponents of the law in the parliament, however, say it is enforceable.

On Sunday, December 22, Shahrzad Akbar, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC), expressed her thoughts on Twitter regarding the law. Ms. Akbar highlighted the Child Protection Law, noting, “The Child Protection Law provides a protective framework for preventing recruitment in military activities, keeping children in surveillance, detention, preventing children from being used in prostitution, protection against trafficking, the prohibition of education, etc. The law also includes special protections for child victims, children with disabilities, orphans and other children in need of support.”

Opponents of the law in the parliament have said that when signs of puberty appear in a person he or she is no longer a child.

A number of activists and MPs however say that some Afghan parliamentarians oppose the law on their own reasons. Sayed Azim Kebrzani, an Afghan MP, says the law is to protect children in the family, community, and school environments. Implementation of this law in society and families can provide children with legal protection and standards.

Wahid Farzaee, a member of the Afghan Bar Association, believes the law should be sent to the Senate for approval. He added that if the Senate rejects it and violates the constitution, then by legal procedure the Supreme Court will decide.

According international conventions and treaties including conventions on the rights of children which was ratified at the United Nations in 1989 and the Afghan government adopted it in 1994, those under the age of 18 are defined as children. In its 1st Article, it states that: “This Convention recognizes all those under the age of eighteen as children. Although the legal age is lower in some countries, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the relevant body, calls on governments to increase the age to 18 if the legal age defined in their countries is below it.”

Mr. Kabrzani, however, says that Muslim jurists have not set a particular age for adulthood, religious maturity in Islamic tradition.