Child’s Definition in Pakistan 

In Pakistan, there is no standardised definition of a child in terms of age. The definition of a child is relevant in a number of contexts, including education, employment, criminal responsibility and the provision of various rights and protections. Children in Pakistan are entitled to certain rights and protections under national and international law, including the right to education, the right to protection from abuse and exploitation, and the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. When a child turns 18, he or she is normally considered an adult and is entitled to vote and obtain a driving licence.

The Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 does not provide a definition for a “child”, however make reference to child in number of Articles. Multiple definitions which are embodied in various pieces of legislation create disparities in social practice and interpretation. As a consequence, the age of majority or minority is subject to various interpretations, depending upon the specific law under the application. Social attitudes also contribute to how children are defined. It is commonly understood that a child is a human between the stages of birth and puberty. These attitudes are reflected in the way children are treated by police, the court of law and in cases of marriage.

In majority of laws in Pakistan, a child is generally defined as a person who is below the age of 18 years. This is in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Pakistan has ratified in 1990. The Convention defines a child as “every human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”

Definition of a Child in Laws of Pakistan

Federal and Islamabad Capital Territory Laws

Name of LawChild’s Definition
National Commission on the Rights of Child Act, 2017Under the age of 18 years
Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018Under the age of 18 years
Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, 2020Under the age of 18 years
Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Act, 2021Under the age of 18 years
Juvenile Justice System Act, 2018Under the age of 18 years
Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016Under the age of 18 years 
Islamabad Capital Territory Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Act, 2021Under the age of 18 years
Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 20125 to 16 years of age
Employment of Children Act, 1991Under the age of 18 years
Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929Male under the age of 18 years & female under the age of 16 years
Islamabad Capital Territory Child Protection Act, 2018Under the age of 18 years

Punjab Special Laws

Name of LawChild’s Definition
Punjab Domestic Workers Act, 2019Child is not defined under the law, however section 3 says that any child under the age of 15 years is not allowed to work in household in any capacity
Punjab Prohibition of Child Labour at Brick Kilns Act, 2016Under the age of 14 years
Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Act, 2016Under the age of 15 years
Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act, 20145 to 16 years of age
Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act, 2004Under the age of 18 years
Punjab Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act, 2015Male under the age of 18 years & female under the age of 16 years

Sindh Special Laws

Name of LawChild’s Definition
Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Act, 2017Under the age of 14 years
Sindh Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Act, 2016Under the age of 18 years
Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013Under the age of 18 years
Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 20135 to 16 years of age
Sindh Child Protection Authority Act, 2011Under the age of 18 years
Sindh Children Act, 1955Under the age of 16 years

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Special Laws

Name of LawChild’s Definition
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Free Compulsory Primary and Secondary Education Act, 20175 to 16 years of age
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Prohibition of Employment of Children Act, 2015Under the age of 14 years
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Protection and Welfare Act, 2010Under the age of 18 years

Balochistan Special Laws

Name of LawChild’s Definition
Balochistan Employment of Children (Prohibition and Regulation ) Act, 2021Under the age of 14 years
Balochistan Child Protection Act, 2016Under the age of 18 years
Balochistan Compulsory Education Act, 20145 to 16 years of age

Gilgit-Baltistan Special Laws

Name of LawChild’s Definition
Gilgit-Baltistan Prohibition of Employment of Children Act, 2019Under the age of 14 years
Gilgit-Baltistan Child Protection Response Act, 2017Under the age of 18 years
Gilgit-Baltistan Compulsory Education Act, 20205 to 12 years of age
Gilgit-Baltistan Prohibition of Corporal Punishment against Children Act, 2015Under the age of 18 years

Recommendations

The Committee on the Rights of the Child  has recommended that the Government of Pakistan ensure full harmonisation of its legislation relating to the definition of a child so that a child is defined as any human being below the age of 18 years. In particular, it is recommended that the Zina and Hadood Ordinances (1979) and the laws restricting child marriages in all provinces be amended to equalise the age of marriage for boys and girls and to raise the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18 years. (No. 17, Concluding Observations on Pakistan’s Fifth Periodic Report, July 2016)

Contributors

(1) Qindeel Shujaat. He can be reached at qindeel@gmail.com 

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