This report is part of CRIN's access to justice for children project, looking at the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in national law, the status of children involved in legal proceedings, the legal means to challenge violations of children’s rights and the practical considerations involved in challenging violations.
The CRC has the authority of national law in Rwanda. Multiple laws have been enacted or revised with the aim to conform to the provisions of the CRC. An individual who has not yet reached the age of 21 is unable to bring lawsuits or otherwise take legal action in his or her own name. An exception occurs when a child has been emancipated, in which case the child enjoys the legal capacity of an adult. The law requires the provision of legal representation to minors in the judicial system. However, there is an insufficient number of lawyers to meet the need for legal representation — a reality that observers suggest contributes to trial delays for minors. Within the Rwandan legal framework there is a particularly acute gap in protection for children, which affects those who hold employment. Rwanda sets the minimum age for full-time employment at 18 and the minimum age for apprenticeship at 16. Still, nine percent of Rwandan children between the ages of five and 17 are engaged in child labor. Because legal majority is reached at age 21, children who seek to remedy labor-law violations will be unable to do so unless their representatives bring lawsuit.