National law and policies on minimum ages – Zambia
According to the CRC, laws and policies must be directed to the best interest of the child. This is especially so in provisions that aim to safeguard the child against exploitation or an early end to childhood, i.e. in the instances where children are most vulnerable and at risk. Yet such safeguards are often ignored and different areas of legislation found to clash with each other. What happens if the age for the end of compulsory education is 14 but the minimum age of employment is 12? Or vice versa? What if a girl can be married before school leaving age - will she then return to school? And who ensures schooling in prisons, when in reality education should protect children from incarceration?
With 192 parties to it, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most widely ratified UN treaty. Each State Party must submit periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which uses this process to monitor State compliance with the treaty. The vast majority of the information on minimum ages presented on these pages is taken directly from such reports (occasionally, if these failed to include relevant information concerning minimum ages, other components of the reporting process - such as the Committee’s Concluding Observations - were consulted). States Parties’ reports constitute self-assessment by governments and are therefore authoritative sources, emanating directly from those empowered to make decisions. Using this type of sources also permits a range of actors to hold governments accountable for the standards which they report under the CRC. The sections of these reports have been reproduced faithfully, and readers are encouraged to make use of the full original text, available here.
Individual country reports are often written by diverse parts of the government, and frequently run to more than 100 pages. Moreover, within some states’ legal systems there are various recognised sources of law, which frequently generate conflicting minimum ages. Distilling precise numbers out of such documents is therefore a precarious task. While we would encourage cross-country comparison, we would also stress the danger that those countries with a more honest engagement with the reporting process might come off worse when compared with those which would mis-represent the degree of compliance, whether wilfully or not. For a full explanation of the principles that guided us in our analysis, please visit the introductory pages here.
Source: Initial report: CRC/C/11/Add.25, 19 November 2002