Malawi has been urged to put the child age at 18 in accordance with international statutes.
Currently, the Constitution puts child marriage age by consent at 15 and the age limit for child labour and defilement is 14.
In his presentation at a stakeholders consultative meeting on child rights held in Lilongwe recently, executive director for Eye of the Child, Maxwell Matewere, noted that the country’s stand on the issue puts children at a disadvantage, saying it is counter-productive to the development of the nation.
“Malawi, being one of the very few countries that put the child age at 16, will continue to experience persistent abuses against children,” Matewere said.
He said the country should harmonise its statutes with Article 2 of the Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC), which recognises a child as somebody below the age of 18.
Director of social welfare in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Willard Manjolo, blamed the African Children Charter (ACC) which gives member States a leeway to derogate their own child ages.
He, however, said Malawi’s age of the child has serious overlaps and contradictions.
“There is need to examine our laws so as to effectively mitigate problems that are faced by children. Several recent reports in my office highlight numerous physical and emotional violence perpetuated against children emanating from lack of such policies,” Manjolo said.
Speaking in an interview conducted on the sidelines of the meeting, Judge Edward Twea of the Supreme Court expressed surprise at the volume of cases perpetrated against children, suggesting Parliament should harmonise all laws and provisions to be in tandem with the ACC.
“Responsibility to promote child rights lies on the individual member countries, as such, there is need for Malawi to constitutionalise the ACC for the good of our children who are the future of this nation,” said Twea.