SAMOA: National Laws

Summary: General overview of Samoa'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

Samoan courts are required to “have regard to [the] Convention in cases within its scope”, and the courts have been willing to apply the Convention in relation to appeals against criminal sentencing decisions and with regards to police actions. It is not clear, however, whether the Convention would be applied if it overtly conflicted with national legislation.

Constitution: Part II of the Samoan Constitution includes a number of rights provisions that apply regardless of age and a small number that make specific reference to the rights of children:

  • Article 12: provides that no person attending an educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction or take part in a religious ceremony except that which relates to his or her own religion.

  • Article 12(2): provides that religious communities have a right to establish and maintain educational institution and to provide religious instruction within such institutions.

  • Article 15(3): provides that the making of provisions for the protection or advancement of children will not violate the constitutional provisions on equal protection.

Legislation: there is no comprehensive or consolidated Children's Act in Samoan law, rather provisions relevant to children can be found in a number of Acts, Ordinances and Regulations. Legislation of particular relevance to children includes, but is by no means limited to:

  • The Young Offenders Act 2007

  • The Crimes Act 2013

  • The Criminal Procedure Act 1972

  • The Community Justice Act 2008

  • The Infants Ordinance 1961

  • The Education Act 2009

  • The Compulsory Education Act 1994

  • The Maintenance and Affiliation Act 1967

  • The Family Safety Act 2013

  • The Labour and Employment Act 1972

  • The Mental Health Act 2007

  • The Youth, Sports and Cultural Affairs Act 1993/94

  • Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2002

  • The Citizenship Act 2004

  • The Infants (Adoption) Amendment Act 2005

  • The Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Ordinance 1961

Legal Research

The website of the Parliament of Samoa provides access to national legislation and regulations ( The Samoan Legal Information Institute also maintains a database of national legislation, subsidiary legislation and consolidated acts ( as does the Pacific Legal Information Institute ( In addition, the GlobaLex project at New York University has published a guide to conducting legal research in the South Pacific ( and the World Legal Information Institute ( and the U.S. Law Library of Congress ( provide access to a selection of legal and governmental resources. All resources are available in English

Case Law

CRC Jurisprudence

The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been cited in the decisions of the Supreme Court of Samoa, including in reference to children's right to legal assistance (, the physical abuse of children ( and the sexual abuse of children (

Case Law Research

The Samoan Legal Information Institute maintains databases of the decisions of the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court, High Court and Magistrates Court ( as does the Pacific Legal Information Institute ( The World Legal Information Institute maintains a page which provides links to a number of other Samoan case law resources ( All resources are available in English.

Compliance with the CRC

In its Concluding Observations of 2006, the Committee on the Rights of the Child welcomed the State's survey of existing laws and the identification of areas of national law that needed to be amended to bring them into conformity with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee expressed concern, however, that the Office of the Law Reform Commission had not been established and that as a result the necessary follow-up to the survey had been postponed or delayed. The Committee urged the State to establish the Office as a matter of priority and to implement a plan to reform Samoan legislation.

In depth analysis

The Committee also raised a number of more specific concerns in its Concluding Observations of 2006. Among the most basic of concerns was with regards to the definition of the child in national legislation, specifically for the purposes of marriage. Noting that the minimum age for marriage was lower for girls (16 years) than boys (18 years), the Committee urged the State to establish one minimum legal age for marriage at an internationally acceptable level.

A number of recommendations from the Committee's Observations revolved around the issue of violence against children. Noting that corporal punishment remained lawful and widely practice in the family, in schools and in alternative care settings, the Committee urged the State to introduce and enforce legislation prohibiting physical punishment in all settings. The Committee also raised concern over the persistent occurrence of child abuse and neglect in Samoa, and urged the State to take measures to receive, monitor and investigate complaints of violence against children, including domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse.

With regards to children in conflict with the law, the Committee expressed concern that the juvenile justice system lacked infrastructure and legislation; at the low minimum age of criminal responsibility (8 years); and that non-custodial options were not readily available. The corresponding recommendations focused on establishing a functioning juvenile justice system, including by enacting the Young Persons Bill and the Criminal and Community Justice Bill; raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility; ensuring that deprivation of liberty is only used as a last resort; and that children are only detained separately from adults.

Current legal reform projects

Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any current legal 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.