The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) says that a child is anyone under 18 years old. But in Scotland, some laws have a different definition of a child, which can cause confusion and make it difficult to protect all people under 18 years old.
Some laws in Scotland do follow the UNCRC definition of a child, but others use a lower age limit. For example, in criminal law, 16- and 17-year-olds can be treated as adults and put in adult prisons. This is not fair because children need protection until they are 18.
Some laws in Scotland set age limits to decide when children can do things like vote or get married. But sometimes these age limits don’t think about what children’s rights are. Some rights protect children from harm, like being abused or exploited. Other rights let children take part in decisions that affect them.
Scotland has set 16 as an important age for children’s rights, like being able to vote. But this shouldn’t change the definition of a child, and it shouldn’t stop laws from protecting children until they are 18. Some laws need to change to make sure children under 18 get the protection they need. For example, the age limit for getting married should be 18, not 16. And all children under 18 should be treated as children in the justice system.
The Scottish Government is starting to change some laws, but there is still more to do. We need to review the laws and make sure all children under 18 get the protection they deserve. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child can help by recommending changes to the UK and Scottish Governments.
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