Key provisions

The following table provides an overview of some of the key provisions that protect children’s rights in national law.

Table 2.1 Overview of key children’s rights

Ethiopia: Revised Family Code; Ethiopian Criminal Code; FDRE ConstitutionKenya: The Children Act, 2001Tanzania: Law of the Child Act, 2009Uganda: The Children Act, Chapter 59
Definition of a childAll persons below the age of 18 are minors and the minimum age of marriage is 18. A child is defined as any person under the age of 18 years.A person below the age of 18 years shall be known as a child.A child is a person below the age of 18 years.
The best interests principleThe best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration in all actions concerning children by public institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies.In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or by private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.The best interests of a child shall be the primary consideration in all actions concerning a child, whether undertaken by public or by private social welfare institutions, courts or administrative bodies.Whenever the State, a court, a local authority or any person determines any question with respect to the upbringing of a child, the administration of a child’s property, or the application of any income arising from it, the child’s welfare shall be the paramount consideration.

Parental responsibility

Both parents have the responsibility for the proper upbringing of their children.Parental responsibilities include:
  • a.the duty to maintain the child and in particular to provide him with adequate diet, shelter, clothing, medical care, and education and guidance
  • b.the duty to protect the child from neglect, discrimination and abuse
  • c.the right to give parental guidance in religious, moral, social, cultural and other values, and to determine the name of the child.
Every parent shall have duties and responsibilities, whether imposed by law or otherwise, towards his child, which include the duty to:
  • a.protect the child from neglect, discrimination, violence, abuse, exposure to physical and moral hazards and oppression
  • b.provide guidance, care, assistance and maintenance for the child and assurance of the child's survival and development
  • c.ensure that in the temporary absence of a parent, the child shall be cared for by a competent person.
Every parent shall have parental responsibility for his or her child.

Where the natural parents of a child are deceased, parental responsibility may be passed on to relatives of either parent or, by way of a care order, to the warden of an approved home, or to a foster parent.

Support for vulnerable children and familiesThe law … gives priority to the well-being, upbringing and protection of children in accordance with the Constitution and International Instruments that Ethiopia has ratified. The National Council for Children’s Services is responsible for the formulation of policies on family employment and social security that are designed to alleviate the hardships that impair the social welfare of children.

It also works towards the provision of social services essential to the welfare of families in general and children in particular.

The local government authority shall have the duty to keep a register of most vulnerable children within its area of jurisdiction and to give assistance to them whenever possible in order to enable those children to grow up with dignity among other children and to develop their potential and self-reliance. It shall be the general duty of every local authority:
  • safeguard and promote the rights and welfare of children within its jurisdiction
  • promote the good upbringing of children by their families, through the establishment of suitable family-oriented programmes.
Alternative care for childrenSpecial protection is afforded to orphans, and the State encourages the establishment of institutions that ensure and promote their adoption, and advance their welfare and education.The National Council for Children’s Services has responsibility for ensuring the welfare of children unable to be cared for by their parents.

A care order can be made when a child is in need of care and protection.

A court may issue a care order or an interim care order on application by a social welfare officer for the benefit of a child.

The care order or an interim care order shall remove the child from any situation where he is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm and transfer the parental rights to the social welfare officer.

A care order can be made to remove a child from a situation where he or she is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm; and to assist the child and those with whom he or she was living or wishes to live to examine the circumstances that have led to the making of the order and to take steps to resolve or ameliorate the problem so as to ensure the child’s return to the community.
Health and well-beingThe guardian is responsible for the health of a child. The law provides for free access to health services for those who cannot afford it.Every child shall have an inherent right to health, and it shall be the responsibility of the government and the family to ensure the survival and development of the child.The parent or guardian is responsible for ensuring the right of the child to immunisation and medical attention.It is the duty of the parent or guardian to ensure the right of the child to medical care, including immunisation.

You will see from the table that in all four countries the laws describe situations not in terms of children’s needs, but in terms of the obligations to respond to the fact that children have rights. The laws also make clear that both parents and governments have responsibilities for ensuring the care and well-being of children.

2.4 The law and the child’s right to be cared for and looked after

Role of family and State