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Who Is A Child? The Definition Of A Child

2399 words - 10 pages

This research paper looks at the definition of a child as expressed in four fields: international law, international child convention, Sharia and Islamic law, and Arab countries. A child is considered any person below the age of 18 years of age. However, each of the four fields has its own modifications of the definition. For instance, the international law and international child conventional loosely consider the age of 18 years as the upper limit of childhood, as they provide a room for countries in which the age of majority may be attained earlier than 18 years. In the four fields, a child is considered dependent on their parents and communities for protection and financial and social support. However, the four fields have a few controversies in the way they define and treat children. For instance, Sharia and Islamic laws want children aged 7 years and above held responsible for their actions and subjected to corporal punishment if found guilty of criminal offenses. On the other hand, the international law and international child convention prohibit corporal punishment of children regardless of their age.
According to the international law, a child is defined as any person below 18 years of age. The upper childhood age limit of 18 years may however not hold in countries where children attain age of majority earlier (Buck 3). About 192 member countries of the United Nations agree with the definition of child as set by the international law. As a rule, children have fewer rights compared to adults. This implies that children are expected to operate under the care of their parents or any other responsible adults or guardians who are supposed to help them make important decisions affecting their lives. Internationally, children began to gain recognition as persons of lower level of maturity who need love and protection in the 17th century (Butler 15).
Although the international law expresses its definition of a child as any person under the age of 18 years, the law does not have definite lower and upper age limits for childhood. For instance, there has been argument on what the correct lower age limit ought to be considering the unborn child who also requires protection from the parents and the law (Buck 8). The upper limit also suffers similar uncertainties. For example, the 1973 International Labor Organization Minimum Age Convention gives an individual member country the right to set its own age of majority in which a person can enter the labor force. Some countries set it at 14, while others put it at 15. The 1956 Supplementary Convention on Slavery sets the upper limit as 18 years (Butler 21). With these uncertainties in lower and upper age limits for a child, each member country of the United Nations has the liberty to set its own reasonable age limits.
The international convention regards a child as any person with specific needs and rights that need to be protected by relevant individuals and concerned authorities. Like the international...

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