Every society has different traditions when it comes to what is and is not acceptable behavior regarding children, every generation also has different ways of doing things. Marriage to a 10-year-old was acceptable in many countries in the past, even in the Gulf Cooperation Council states, but is certainly not acceptable or legal now. Child labor was also legal in many countries in the previous century but is not now. What about Kuwaiti law in general? What are the most important laws when it comes to age?
I personally think that more light should be shed on child rights in the GCC. Today, I have gathered questions from my readers/clients on children in Kuwait and their rights from adults that are concerned.
Minors under 16 for criminal cases
Question: My son is 16 years old and as a teenager he can be hard to control sometimes. His friends and him were caught stealing from the grocery shop next door. I am really worried about him. I heard there is a new law in Kuwait that makes 16 years the new “legal age” and therefore he can be held responsible, is this true?
Fajer: Before I answer the question, I want to make it clear that under Kuwaiti law there is no such thing as “legal age”. There are different circumstances for ages under Kuwaiti law depending on the law that is of concern. I think what you are speaking about is criminal law, in the past those accused of a crime were only trialed at the criminal courts for adults if they were 18 and above. The new law states that minors are now under 16 years old for criminal cases and not 18.
Question: A lot of people say there are no child rights in Kuwait. Is this true? Also, as a teacher, I would like my students to be aware of what they can do or who they can speak to should there be any incidents or when they feel unsafe. What can I tell them?
Fajer: Of course children have rights in Kuwait just like any other civil society, but the rights differ accordingly. The Ministry of Health in Kuwait has a Child Protection Hotline; the number is 147, and children in Kuwait should be aware of this number and the services they offer. Adults should also know this number and call it should they see any children being abused.
Divorce and travel
Question: I am divorced and I would like to take my children with me on a holiday back home. Am I allowed to do that? Do my children have the right to refuse also?
Fajer: Questions like this need to be more specific, as a lawyer I need more information from you. It depends on if you are the mother or father and also what is the religion of the marriage as well as the terms that were agreed upon for the divorce.
If you are the mother and the you have “legal guardianship” on the children, legally speaking you still need permission from their father in order to travel. The officer at immigration could ask you for a permission letter from their father.
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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed