Constitutions protecting children from violence


Children's rights first

When a State ratifies the Convention on the Rights of the Child or other treaties, it commits to make sure that its national legal framework conforms to those international standards. By doing so, they confirm the supremacy of Children’s Human Rights!

Convention on the rights of the child integrated in the Constitution and national legal system

In countries with plural legal systems, where national legislation exists alongside with customary and religious law, legal interpretation and implementation may face complexities and tensions that compromise the realization of children’s rights, and perpetuate violence and discrimination based on age, gender or other status.

This is particularly problematic in the case of harmful practices upheld in the name of honour, custom, tradition or religion. Across regions, millions of children suffer from various forms of harmful practices, including female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage, breast ironing, son preference, female infanticide, virginity testing, honour crimes, bonded labour, forced feeding and nutritional taboos, accusation of witchcraft, as well as a great number of other less known practices.

In order to ensure children’s rights and avoid potential conflicts between different laws, the supremacy of legislation aligned with international human rights standards should be explicitly recognized in the law.

Many States have confirmed the supremacy of ratified international treaties in their Constitutions, and thereby created an environment conducive to upholding children’s rights.

The Constitution of Angola, adopted in 2010, indicates in Article 13.1 that “general or common international law received under the terms of the Constitution form an integral part of the Angolan legal system”. Moreover, “constitutional and legal precepts relating to fundamental rights must be interpreted and incorporated in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (…) and international treaties on the subject ratified by the Republic of Angola (Article 26.2) ;” and “the constitutional principles regarding fundamental rights, freedoms and guarantees are directly applicable to, and binding upon, all public and private entities (Article 28.1). According to Article 7, “The validity and legal force of custom which does not contradict the Constitution and does not threaten human dignity shall be recognised”.

For more information, see:

Angola’s constitution

Report by the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children: Protecting Children from Harmful Practices in Plural Legal Systems, with a Special Emphasis on Africa Download
Report by the Council of Europe Commission on Democracy through Law: The protection of Children’s Rights: International standards and domestic constitutions Download