Method 3: Multiple law or sectoral approach - Childrens Rights Reform

Method 3: Multiple law or sectoral approach

  • In many States Parties, the adoption of a Comprehensive Children's Rights Code is not common.
  • Such States Parties choose other approaches to children’s rights incorporation.
    • These approaches could involve a gradual incorporation of provisions of the CRC, or a combination of related provisions, into separate laws (i.e. multiple law approach).
    • It could also concern a sectoral approach in which a (more or less) Comprehensive Children’s Rights Code is meant to impact one or more sectors of law (e.g. family law, child protection or child justice).
  • Judicial decisions may prompt the revision of legislation and the revision of legislation may also be part of an incremental approach to the incorporation of children’s rights.

E.g.: Jamaica provides one example of this approach. Following its ratification of the CRC in 1991, Jamaica adopted a series of new legislation, including:

  • The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act, 1993;
  • the Domestic Violence Act, 1994;
  • the Family Property Act, 1995;
  • the Legal Aid Act, 1997;
  • the Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement (Amendment) Act, 1999; and
  • the Citizenship (Constitutional Amendment) Act, 1999.

E.g.: Morocco’s legal system incorporates both Islamic law and the civil law tradition. The multiple laws approach was more appropriate, given the nature of its constitutional monarchy. The adoption of specific laws to address particular situations, such as the Abandoned Children Act and the Social Protection of Disabled Children Act, has helped to put some elements of the CRC into effect.

The CRC Committee welcomes the development of consolidated children’s rights statutes, but also underlines that it is crucial that all relevant ‘sectoral’ laws (e.g. in relation to education, health and justice) consistently reflect the principles and standards of the CRC. (CRC GC 5, para. 22).

Benefits of a multiple-law or sectoral approach

The multiple-law or sectoral approach provides for a more gradual or incremental reform of legislation.

  • This enables State Parties to address the legislation that most urgently requires reform early on in the process.
  • Each piece of legislation is assessed on its own merit, meaning the relevant law or issue is given significant individual attention compared to a single-law approach.

The multiple-law or sectoral approach may also serve to generate greater support for the implementation of children's rights.

  • Since each individual piece of legislation addresses clearly defined and often limited objectives, stakeholders can develop a strong base of support for each one based on its own merits. This is likely to eventually make implementation more effective.
  • This could also allow the government to connect more effectively to (public) perceptions concerning children’s rights, which may change over time and may be positively impacted by the incremental incorporation of the CRC; also if the government invests in awareness, (public) education and information campaigns that accompany the legislative reform process.
  • It may well be easier to educate the general public as well as government officials and other stakeholders about specific provisions of one law dealing with a well‐defined aspect of children's rights than to try to cover all children’s rights at once, as with a Comprehensive Children's Rights Code.

Challenges of a multiple-law or sectoral approach

A multiple-law or sectoral approach to legislative reform can take a long time to fully incorporate the CRC into domestic legislation. This may also lead to a loss of political momentum.

This process may not fulfil all the elements of the comprehensive legislative reform process, as it is likely to only focus on specific issues. This may also lead to a piecemeal approach with inconsistencies between laws and regulations as a result.

There may be duplication as the reform process goes on because many legislative measures have overlapping effects.

The desired impact of the legislative reform process – essentially bringing about a fundamental change in how children are seen in domestic law and recognising children as rights holders – may not be realised