VANUATU: National Laws

Summary: General overview of Vanuatu'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 Convention on the Rights of the Child is part of the national law of Vanuatu. The Supreme Court of Vanuatu has cited and directly applied the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but has stated that only some of the provisions of the Convention are directly applicable. The Court does not seem to have explicitly addressed the issue of which provisions can be directly applied and which cannot.

Constitution: Chapter 2 of the Constitution of Vanuatu contains a number of rights provisions that apply regardless of age, but also a small number that specifically address the rights and duties of children:

  • Article 5(1)(k): provides for equal treatment under the law or administrative action, but provides that a no law will be inconsistent with this protection where it makes provision for the special benefit of children and young persons.

  • Article 7(h): provides that parents have a duty to support, assist and educate children whether “legitimate” or “illegitimate” and to give children “a true understanding of their fundamental rights and duties and of the national objectives and culture and customs of the people of Vanuatu”

  • Article 7(i): provides a child has a duty to respect his or her parents.

Legislation: there is no consolidated or comprehensive Children's Act in domestic law, rather provisions relevant to children can be found in a number of Acts. Relevant legislation includes, but is by no means limited to:

  • The Penal Code (Cap 134)

  • The Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 136)

  • The Education Act (Cap 272)

  • The Maintenance of Children Act (Cap 46)

  • The Maintenance of the Family Act (Cap 42)

  • The Employment Act (Cap 160)

  • The Control of Marriage Act (Cap 45)

  • The Marriage Act (Cap 60)

  • The Matrimonial Causes Act (Cap 192)

  • The Public Health Act No. 22 of 1994

  • The Immigration Act (Cap 66)

Legal Research

The website of the Parliament of Vanuatu provides access to the texts of recently enacted legislation and Bills before Parliament ( as well as the Constitution ( Pacific Legal Information Institute maintains a database of consolidated legislation ( including older legislation. In addition, the GlobaLex project at New York University has published a guide to legal research in the South Pacific ( and both the World Legal Information Institute ( and the US 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 by the Supreme Court of Vanuatu, including in relation to the best interests of the child in custody disputes ( and the customary law tradition of child swapping (

Case Law Research

The Pacific Legal Information Institute provides access to the decisions of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the Magistrates Court as well as a selection of other jurisdictions ( All resources are available in English.

Compliance with the CRC

Vanuatu has not reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child since 1999. As of the Committee's Concluding Observations of 1999, however, the Committee expressed concern that domestic legislation and customary law did not reflect the principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and urged the State to undertake a review of its domestic legislation with a view to bringing it into conformity with the Convention. More specific areas of concern included the inadequacy of the juvenile justice system and discrimination with regards to the minimum legal age of marriage for girls (16 years) and boys (18 years).

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.