BELIZE: National Laws

Summary: General overview of Belize'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
Section 65(b) of Belize's Interpretation Act provides that interpretations of legislation compatible with international obligations are preferable to those which are not. In effect this allows courts to interpret laws with reference to international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), though would not allow courts to to apply treaties where they expressly contradict domestic legislation.

The Supreme Court of Belize, in applying the CRC has gone beyond this general duty to interpret domestic law in conformity with the Convention, by holding that the Families and Children Act has incorporated the Convention into national law. In practice, Belizean courts have applied the Convention in place of domestic legal provisions where the two were incompatible.

Constitution: Part II of the Constitution of Belize includes a number of rights provisions that apply regardless of age, but throughout the Constitution, there are also a small number of provisions that makes explicit reference to children:

  • Preamble: provides that equal protection should be given to children regardless of their social status and that a just system should be ensured to provide for education and health on the basis of equality.
  • Section 5(1)(f) : includes within the permissible grounds to deprive a person of their liberty, any such deprivation for the purposes of the the education or welfare of a person under the age of 18 with the consent of his or her parents
  • Section 6(9)(a): permits a court proceedings to be held in private if provided for in law and if necessary or expedient for the welfare of persons under the age of 18
  • Section 11(2): permits parents to consent to the religious instruction of their children in a place of education
  • Section 29(5): includes provisions relevant to the determination of the citizenship of children under the age of 18
  • Sections 112(5) and s. 113(3): makes reference to the pension benefits to which children and dependants are entitled.

Legislation: there is no comprehensive Children's Code in Belizean law, rather provisions relevant to children can be found in a range of domestic legislation. Relevant legislation includes, but is by no means limited to:

  • The Families and Children Act (Ch. 173)
  • The Criminal Code (Ch. 101)
  • The Labour Act (Ch. 297)
  • The Family Courts Act (Ch. 173)
  • The Penal System Reform (Alternative Sentences) Act (Ch. 102:01)
  • The Registration of Birth and Deaths Act (Ch. 157 of the Laws of Belize)
  • The Education Act (Ch. 36)
  • The Immigration Act (Ch. 156)
  • The Belizean Nationality Act (Ch. 161 and 161S)
  • The Certified Institution (Children's Reformation) Act (Ch. 121 and 121S)
  • The Indictable Procedures Act (Ch. 96)
  • The Court of Appeal Act (Ch. 90)
  • The Defence Act (Ch. 135)
  • The Domestic Violence Act (Ch. 178)
  • The Families and Children (Child Abuse) (Reporting) Regulations

Legal Research
The Constitution of Belize is available through the website of the National Assembly of Belize ( and the website contains a section dedicated to Acts of Parliament, although at the time of writing, no legislation was available ( The Commonwealth Legal Information Institute provides access to Belizean legislation ( In addition, the World Legal Information Institute ( and the U.S. Law Library of Congress ( both provide access to a selection of legal and governmental resources. All of these resources are available in English.

Case Law
CRC Jurisprudence
The Supreme Court of Belize has considered the Convention on the Rights of the Child in it's judgments, including in ruling in Bowen v. Belize, on the legality of sentences of life imprisonment without parole for juvenile offenders (

Case Law Research
Decisions of the Supreme Court of Belize made between 1978 and 2010 are available through the Commonwealth Legal Information Institute ( and the case law of the Caribbean Court of Justice is available through that court's website ( The British and Irish Legal Information Institute maintains a database of the decisions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (, though the Privy Council has not had jurisdiction over Belize since 2010.

Compliance of the CRC with national law
In its Concluding Observations of 2005, the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed appreciation of the State's ongoing efforts to bring its legislation into conformity with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including proposed reforms to the Criminal Code and the Evidence Act. The Committee urged the State to pursue further legal reform, however, including by enacting a comprehensive Children's Code.

In depth analysis
Among the specific area of national law that the Committee focussed on its its recommendations, and perhaps the most basic, was in relation to the way children are defined in domestic legislation. The Committee expressed concern at the low minimum ages of marriage (14 years), admission to hazardous work (14 years) and to part-time work (12 years). The Families and Children Act now prohibits the employment of children in work harmful to health, education or mental, physical or moral development, but the Committee is yet to review the relevant law. The Committee also expressed concern that the age limit for sexual consent (16 years) only applied to girls. The Corresponding recommendations urged the State to address these low minimum ages to bring them into conformity with the Convention.

Violence against, and abuse of, children was also a prominent feature of the Committee's 2005 Observations on Belize. Noting the high prevalence of violence against children, including murder, abduction and domestic violence, the Committee called on the State to effectively enforce its legislation on violence including by conducting timely and adequate investigations into cases of child abuse. The Committee also expressed concern about the discriminatory legislation on sexual assault and abuse which left boys with lesser legal protection than girls.

Corporal punishment remained legal and widely practised in the home, in schools and in other legislations, leading the Committee to recommend that the State to amend legislation legitimising such violence and to pass legislation to specifically prohibit physical punishment.

With regards to juvenile justice, the Committee reiterated the concern it had expressed in previous Observations on the low minimum age of criminal responsibility (9 years); the large number of children held in detention; and the inadequacy of the juvenile justice system, which did not provide specialised juvenile courts outside of Belize City. The Committee also expressed concern about the possibility of sentencing children as young as nine to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole though, since the Supreme Court of Belize decision in 2010, such sentences have been considered unconstitutional and should not now be possible.

Current legal reform projects
Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any current law reform projects.


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.