AFGHANISTAN: National Laws

Summary: General overview of Afghanistan's national legal provisions on children's rights, including guidance on how to conduct further research.

National laws on children's rights

Status of the CRC in national law
The status of the CRC in Afghan law remains unclear. While Article 7 of the Constitution obligates the Government to observe ratified international human rights treaties and Article 94 arguably recognises these treaties as a source of law, no provision explicitly clarifies the status of international instruments in the national legal system. It seems likely, however, that national law would prevail over conflicting international provisions. Notably, the Law on International Treaties (1989) references the need for additional legislation to give treaties effect in national law, and the Ministry of Justice is tasked with determining whether and how existing laws would need to be amended to be compatible with new treaty obligations under the Regulation Governing the Operations and Activities of the Ministry of Justice (1999).

The Government is required to implement international treaty obligations in national law under the Law on International Treaties. It does not appear that the CRC has been directly incorporated into national law, however. Rather, its provisions have been implemented via subject-specific legislation in a piecemeal manner.  Nevertheless, according to a government report in 2011, the CRC also can be and is raised in national courts.

Constitution: The Constitution of Afghanistan has two Articles that make specific reference to the rights of children; Article 49 prohibits the forced labour of children, and Article 59 states: “The State shall adopt necessary measures to attain the physical and spiritual health of the family, especially of the child and mother, upbringing of children, as well as the elimination of related traditions contrary to the principles of the sacred religion of Islam.”

Legislation: There is no single consolidated Children's Act in Afghan law; rather, laws pertinent to children are found throughout domestic legislation. For example, juvenile justice matters are covered under the Criminal and Penal Codes, while matters relating to the definition and capacity of children fall within the Civil Code. Other relevant laws include, but are by no means limited to:

  • The Juvenile Code (2005)

  • The Law of Juvenile Rehabilitation Centres (2009)

  • The Law on Counter Abduction and Human Trafficking (2008)

  • The Education Law (2008)

  • The Law on Investigation of Children's Violations

  • The Law of Labour (2007) - regarding exploitation of children and hazardous employment

  • The Citizenship Law- regarding the conditions for gaining Afghan nationality at birth

Legal Research:
Both houses of the Afghan National Assembly maintain websites that provide basic legal and government information in English (Wolesi Jirga:; Meshrano Jirga: The Ministry of Justice ( publishes the Official Gazette, which contains recent laws and other public government declarations, and is in the process of developing an online legal database. In addition, the Hauser Global Law School Program at New York University has published a guide to Legal Research in Afghanistan (, which provides an overview of the Afghan legal system. Both this guide and the U.S Library of Congress ( also provide a wide selection of relevant links.

Case law 
CRC Jurisprudence
Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any cases in national courts that reference the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Case Law Research
There are currently no comprehensive case law resources on Afghanistan, but information on the court system can be obtained on the website of the Ministry of Justice (

Compliance with the CRC
In its 2011 Conculding Observations, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted with concern that Afghanistan "does not consider the Convention as a legally binding instrument in the internal order, and has therefore not incorporated it systematically into the domestic legal system in order to make it applicable."  The Committee was also concerned "that child rights continue to be negatively affected by the application of different sources of law, namely codified, customary and sharia laws, and that legislation contradictory to the Convention remains in force" and further worried "about the low implementation of legislation enacted in the field of child rights due mainly to weak enforcement, limited level of awareness of the legal norms promulgated, widespread corruption, and the application by courts of provisions of customary or sharia law which infringe the principles and rights contained in the Convention."

In depth analysis:
Discrimination, particularly against women and girls, is a among the areas of Afghan law that is most starkly inconsistent with the the CRC. The Committee in particular has called for the repeal of the Shia Personal Status Law of 2009, which contains a number of discriminatory provisions, and an article in the Civil Code that gives fathers exclusive responsibility over their children.

With regards to the sexual exploitation and abuse of children, the Committee has noted “a systematic failure on the part of the authorities to prosecute perpetrators of sexual abuse”. Legally the offence of rape is not clearly defined and separated from other sexual offences, while some forms of sexual abuse, including homosexual abuse, are not included in the Penal Code. Shame and stigma often attach to victims rather than perpetrators, while girl victims of sexual abuse are at risk of honour killing or forced marriage to their rapist. The Committee has recommended the revision of domestic law in this area, as well as reforms to the way law enforcement agencies and social services deal with child victims of sexual abuse.

Though steps have been taken to reform the area of juvenile justice, particularly through the Juvenile Code 2005, a number of areas remain inconsistent with the CRC. The Committee noted that specific juvenile courts existed in only six districts as of April 2011, while the judiciary are generally not trained to deal with children, and detention of is not treated as a matter of last resort. The Committee has also raised instances in which children under the age of criminal responsibility have been detained in Juvenile Rehabilitation Centres, and where children were detained alongside adults.

Current legal reform projects
Changes to the Regulation on Juvenile Rehabilitation Centres, the Regulation of Kindergartens and the Penal Code (regarding the issue of child rape) were all highlighted in Afghanistan's 2010 report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child as the subject matter of ongoing reform.


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.