Minimum Ages of Criminal Responsibility in Asia

As part of CRIN's policy work on the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR), we monitor these ages around the world. This page provides detailed information on MACRs in Asia.

If you are aware of any inaccuracies in this information or reforms underway to amend the relevant laws, please contact us at info@crin.org

Afghanistan

No child under the age of 12 can be held criminally responsible [Juvenile Code, Article 5(1)]. However, during its review of Afghanistan in 2011, the Committee on the Rights of the Child criticised the State for detaining children under the age of criminal responsibility in Juvenile Rehabilitation Centres. [UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on Afghanistan's initial state report, CRC/C/AFG/CO/1, 8 April 2011, paras. 74 and 75]

Bahrain

The Penal Code provides that no person who was younger than 15 at the time an alleged offence was committed may be held liable under the Code, but must be subject to the Juveniles Law. In effect, 15 is the age of criminal majority, the age at which children can be tried under the criminal justice system that applies to adults. Children older than 15 can be subject to the penalties under the Penal Code. [Penal Code, article 32].

Bangladesh

No person can be held criminally responsible for an offence allegedly committed while they were under the age of 9. [Penal Code, Section 83]

Bhutan

No child below the age of 10 may be held criminally liable for a criminal offence. [Penal Code 2004, Article 114.]

Brunei Darussalam

The initial provisions of the Syariah Penal Code Order came into force on 1 May 2014. If fully implemented, the Code would drastically amend sentencing provisions for child offenders, including by introducing the death penalty, amputation, whipping and flogging for Syariah offences committed by children. At the time of writing, only provisions introducing imprisonment and fines for Syariah offences had come into force. The Sultan of Brunei announced in April 2014 that the remaining provisions will be gradually introduced over the next three years.[BBC, “Brunei introduces tough Islamic penal code” 30 April 2014.

To clarify potential changes to be brought into force under the new code, the reforms are dealt with separately below. CRIN's Inhuman Sentencing Campaign Report for Brunei Darussalam gives further information on the changes. [CRIN, Brunei Darussalam: Inhuman sentencing of children, 1 May 2014.]

No one can be held criminally responsible for an offence committed while under the age of 7.  Children older than 7 but younger than 12 can only be held criminally responsible where they have sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences of their actions at the time of the offence. [Penal Code]

The Syariah Penal Code

No child can be held criminally responsible where he or she is not mumaiyiz (able to differentiate the matter) [Syariah Penal Code, Section 12]. Children who are able to differentiate the matter but who have not reached puberty (are not baligh), cannot be sentenced to hadd or qisas punishments. [Syariah Penal Code, Section 13]

Cambodia

Children as young as 14 can be convicted of a criminal offence “if the circumstances of the offence or the personality of the minor justify doing so.” However; children younger than 14 can be subjected to measures of “surveillance, education, protection and assistance”. [Criminal Code, article 39]

China

Mainland China

Generally, people can be held criminally responsible from the age of 16, but children can be held criminally responsible for intentional homicide, intentionally hurting another person so as to cause serious injury of death, rape, robbery, drug-trafficking, arson, explosion or poisoning from the age of 14. [Criminal Law of the People's republic of China, Article 17]

The Laodong jiouyang system of labour camps provided for a system of administrative detention without official charge, trial or judicial review. The relevant regulatory framework indicates that this form of detention had been used for children as young as 11[For more information, see Cipriani, D. (2009), Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: A Global Perspective, Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, p. 194]. In December 2013, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress formally approved reforms to abolish the labour camp system. [Reuters, “China formally eases one-child policy, abolishes labour camps”, 28 December 2013.]

Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region

No one may be held criminally responsible for an action carried out while under the age of 10. [Juvenile Offenders Ordinance, Section 3]

Macau Special Autonomous Region

Under the Penal Code, persons under the age of 16 are “exempt from punishment” [Penal Code, Article 18]. However the minimum age of criminal responsibility is effective set at 12 by Law No. 2/2007, which sets out the scheme of “child protection education of young offenders”. [See Law No. 2/2007, Article 1. Available in Portuguese at: http://bo.io.gov.mo/bo/i/2007/16/lei02.asp]

India

No person can be held criminally responsible for an act committed while he or she was under the age of seven [Indian Penal Code, Section 82] and no person can be held criminally responsible for an act committed while under 12 while of “immature understanding”. A child will be considered to be of “immature understanding” when he or she “has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences of his conduct on that occasion.” [Indian Penal Code 1860, Section 83]

Indonesia

People can be held criminally responsible for their actions from the age of 8 [See Third and fourth periodic reports of Indonesia to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/IND/3-4, 31 October 2012, para. 165]. As of 2012, a bill that would raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility was under consideration, but at the time of writing, it had not been enacted. [See Inter Press Service, “Commission seeks rehabilitation, not detention”, 10 February 2012]

Iran, Islamic Republic of

The Civil Code defines puberty as 15 lunar years for boys, 9 lunar years for girls [Article 1210, Note 1. The Civil Code had previously set the age of maturity at 18, but this was lowered to 15 for boys and 9 for girls by amendments in 1982 (FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), 2009, IRAN/Death Penalty: A state terror policy, Paris: FIDH)] (i.e. age 14 years and 7 months for boys and 8 years an 9 months for girls). [Cipriani, D. (2009), Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: A Global Perspective, Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, p.200]

Iraq

Children can be held criminally responsible for offences committed from the age of 9. [Juvenile Welfare Law No. 76 of 1983, Articles 47(1) and 108]

Israel

No person can be held criminally responsible for an act committed while under the age of 12. [Penal Law of Israel-626/1996, Section 34F]  

Under Israeli military law applied in the West Bank, no person under the age of 12 can be arrested or prosecuted in a military court. [Military Order 1651, Section 191]

Japan

The Penal Code asserts that no one can be punished under the criminal law for any act carried out while under the age of 14 [Penal Code, Article 40]. However, amendments made to the Juvenile Act in 2007 permitted the Family Courts to commit children as young as 11 to Juvenile Training Schools under the administration of the Ministry of Justice Correction Bureau. [See Cipriani, D. (2009), Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: A Global Perspective, Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, p.201 for further reading]

Jordan

At the time of writing, the Jordanian National Assembly was considering amendments to the relevant criminal justice legislation. This section does not take account of any amendments that entered into force after July 2014.

Jordan has reported that children can be held criminally responsible from the age of 7 [Juveniles Act, Law No. 24 of 1968, Article 36. As per Third periodic report of Jordan to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/JOR/3, 2 March 2006, para. 53]. In July 2014, the lower house of the Jordanian parliament passed a draft juvenile law that would raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years, though at the time this report was finalised, the amendment had not entered into force. [Penal Reform International, “Jordan moves towards restorative justice and adoption of non-custodial alternatives for children” 9 July 2014]

Kazakhstan

A person can be held criminally liable for any offence committed while over the age of 16 [Criminal Code, Article 15(1)]. For offences specifically listed in the criminal code children can be held criminally responsible from the age of 14. Generally speaking the lower age limit only applies to more serious offences involving violence, though vandalism and deliberate damage to transport vehicles or roads are also included on the list of offences for which a lower minimum age of criminal responsibility is applied. [Criminal Code, Article 15(2)]

Where a juvenile offender has reached either of these ages for criminal liability, but while committing the crime of “a lesser or medium gravity”, he or she was not aware of the nature or social danger of his acts as a result of “mental retardation”, he or she will not be held liable. [Criminal Code, Article 15(3)]

 

Korea, Democratic People's Republic of

No person may be held criminally responsible for an offence committed while under the age of 14. [The Criminal Code, Art. 11 and the Criminal Procedure Law, Article 53 as per Combined third and fourth periodic reports of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/PRK/4, 15 January 2008, paras. 14 and 232]

Korea, Republic of

No one can be punished for an offence committed while under the age of 14 [Criminal Act, Article 9]. Children can be subject to protection measures from the age of 12, which include placement in child welfare institutions, juvenile protection institutions and juvenile training schools or reformatories. [For further reading, see Cipriani, D. (2009), Children’s Rights and the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility: A Global Perspective, Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, p. 213]

Kuwait

Persons under the age of seven cannot be held criminally responsible [Juveniles Act, Article 6]. Children aged seven to 15 who commit unlawful acts may be subject to penalties under the Juvenile Act, including detention in an institution. [Juvenile Act No. 3 of 1983, Article 6]

Kyrgyzstan

Children aged 16 at the time of an alleged offence may be held criminally liable for any offence [Criminal Code, Article 18(1)]. For a number of offences specifically listed in the Criminal Code, children can be held criminally responsible from the age of 14. [See Criminal Code, Article 18(2)]

Laos, People's Democratic Republic of

No one can be held criminally responsible for an action carried out while under the age of 15.[ Penal Law, Articles 7 and 17]

Lebanon

Children under the age of seven cannot be held criminally responsible. [Law Number 422 of 2002 on the protection of juveniles in conflict with the law or at risk, Article 3.]

Malaysia

Malaysia has a dual system of secular and Islamic law, which has resulted in a number of different minimum ages of responsibility depending on which branch of the law is applicable.

  • Under the Penal Code, a person can be held criminally responsible from the age of 10. [Penal Code, Article 82. See also Child Act Article 2]
  • Under the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997, Muslim children can be held criminally responsible from the onset of puberty. [Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997, Articles 2 and 51]
  • Offences under the Internal Security Act can be prosecuted regardless of age. [Essential (Security Cases) Regulations 1975, Article 3]

Maldives

The Penal Code 2014 does not set a clear minimum age of criminal responsibility, but frames the issue using the “excuse” of lack of maturity. A person is “excused” of a criminal offence if he or she lacks the maturity of an adult and as a result lacks lacks the capacity to accurately perceive the physical consequences of his or her conduct; to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her conduct; or to control his or her conduct. People under the age of 15 are conclusively presumed to be excused of any criminal offence with which he or she is accused. A person aged 15 to 18 is presumed to be excused of any criminal offence unless the prosecution rebut the presumption of immaturity. A person who was under the age of 18 at the time of an alleged offence and meets the requirements of this “excuse” must be transferred to the Juvenile Court, which has exclusive jurisdiction in any subsequent proceedings.[Penal Code 2014, Section 53]

However; this restriction does not apply to offences punishable under Sharia law or for violent felony offences, for which the penalty is postponed until the child reaches the age of 18. Under the Regulation on Conducting Trials, Investigations and Sentencing Fairly for Offences Committed by Minors 2006, children can be held criminally responsible from puberty for the offences of apostasy, revolution against the state, fornication, falsely accusing a person of fornication, consumption of alcohol, unlawful intentional killing and other offences relating to homicide. [Regulation on Conducting Trials, Investigations and Sentencing Fairly for Offences Committed by Minors, Article 5(a)-(c)]

Mongolia.

Children can be held criminally responsible for all offences from the age of 16 and for specifically named offences from the age of 14. [Criminal Code, Article 21(1) and (2)]

Myanmar.

No person can be held criminally responsible for an offence carried out while under the age of seven. Children aged seven to 12 may only be held criminally responsible where they have “attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences” of their conduct. [Child Law, Section 28(a) and (b)]

Nepal.

The Children's Act provides that no child can be punished for a criminal act if he or she was under 10 years old at the time of the offence. Children aged 10 years to 13 years inclusive, can only be given a warning for offences that carry a maximum penalty of a fine. [Children's Act, Section 11(1) and (2)]

Oman.

No one can be subject to criminal penalties for an offence committed while under the age of nine. Where the age of a suspect is not established “it shall be evaluated by the judge”. [Penal Code, Article 104]

Pakistan.

Under the Penal Code, no one can be held criminally responsible for an offence carried out while under the age of seven. Children older than seven and younger than twelve can only be punished under the Penal Code where they have “attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences of [his or her] conduct on that occasion”. [Penal Code, Sections 82 and 83]

However; under the Hudood Ordinances, children are liable for punishments on reaching puberty. Other laws do not specify a minimum age. The Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) defines a child as a person under 18 at the time of committing an offence.

[Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979, Section 2(a); Offence of Qazf (Enforcement of Hadd) Ordinance 1979, Section 2(a); Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order 1979, Section 2(a); Offences Against Property (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979, Section 2(a). The Supreme Court has ruled that for a female puberty is the onset of menstruation (Farrukj Ikram v The State, PLD 1987 SC 5), for a male when he starts secreting semen (Abdul Jabbar v The State, PLD 1991 SC 172).; Frontier Crimes Regulation 1901; Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, Section 2(b)]

Palestine, Occupied Territories.

West Bank.

Children under Palestinian criminal law can be held criminally responsible from the age of 12. [Palestinian Child Law, Article 67 as amended]

Under Israeli military law as it applies to child offenders, no person under the age of 12 can be arrested or prosecuted in a military court. [Military Order 1651, Section 191]

Philippines.

No one can be held criminally responsible for an act carried out while under the age of 15. Children aged older than 15 but younger than 18 can only be held criminally responsible where they have “acted with discernment”. [Republic Act No. 10630, Section 6]

Several Bills were introduced between 2006 and 2013 with a view to lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, but the relevant provisions did not appear in the version of the Act that entered into force.

Qatar.

Children under the age of seven cannot be held criminally responsible. [Law No. II of 2004, the Penal Code, Article 53]

Saudi Arabia.

The minimum age for criminal responsibility has reportedly been raised from 7 to 12, but reports are inconsistent and the rise would not apply to girls or in qisas cases.. The Detention Regulation and the Juvenile Homes’ Regulation 1975 define a juvenile as below the age of 18. There are provisions for juvenile courts and the law states that juveniles must be tried “in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations”, but the law does not require all child offenders to be tried in the juvenile justice system or require judges to base their decisions on children’s age at the time of the offence. Judicial opinion on when a child can be tried as an adult varies widely and tends to be based on a child’s physical development. [Law of Criminal Procedure, Article 13; Cipriani, Children's Rights and the Minimum age of Criminal Responsibility, 2009; Human Rights Watch, Adults Before their Time: Children in Saudi Arabia's Criminal Justice System, p. 13]

Singapore.

Children can be held criminally responsible for offences committed from the age of seven. Children aged older than seven but younger than 12 cannot be held criminally responsible unless they have “attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequence of [their] conduct on that occasion.” [Penal Code, Sections 82 and 83]

Sri Lanka.

No person can be held criminally responsible for an offence committed while under the age of eight. A child older than eight but younger than 12 can only be held criminally responsible if he or she has “attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge of the nature and consequence of his [or her] conduct on that occasion.” [Penal Code, Sections 75 and 76]

Syria.

A child under the age of 10 at the time of an alleged criminal offence cannot be held criminally responsible. [Juvenile Act 1974, Article 10 (as amended by Legislative Decree No. 52 of 2003]

Tajikistan.

Children can be held criminally responsible for any offence from the age of 16, but from the age of 14 for certain named offences, usually involving violence. However, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern that children under the age of 14 “are frequently subjected to arrest, pretrial detention and deprivation of liberty in closed institutions.” [Criminal Code, Article 23(1) and (2); CRC/C/TJK/CO/2, 5 February 2010, para. 72]]

Thailand.

No person can be held criminally responsible for an offence committed while under the age of seven. A child older than seven but younger than 14 cannot be “punished”, but can be subjected a number of sentences including detention in a school or place of training and instruction. [Penal Code, Sections 73 and 74(1)-(5)]

Timor-Leste.

Children under 16 are exempt from criminal liability. For persons aged over 16 but younger than 21 criminal penalties are provided for in specific legislation. [Penal Code, Article 20]

Turkmenistan.

Children are criminally liable for all offences from the age of 16 and for certain named offences from the age of 14. [Penal Code, Articles 21]

United Arab Emirates.

The minimum age of criminal responsibility under criminal law is seven. Under Shari'a law, children typically become liable for Islamic punishments at the onset of puberty. The Emirates differ as to which tradition of Islamic jurisprudence is considered to be the main source of Shari'a rules, and this is reflected in the variation between the Emirates as to the age at which persons become liable for Islamic punishments. [Juvenile Delinquency and Vagrants Act, Article 7; Penal Code, Article 62; Cipriani, Children's Rights and the Minimum age of Criminal Responsibility: A Global Perspective, 2009; Al-Muahairi, B.S.B.A. (1996), “The Islamisation of Laws in the UAE: The Case of the Penal Code”, Arab Law Quarterly, 11(4), 350-371]

Uzbekistan.

Persons can be held criminally responsible for all offences committed after they have reached the age of 16, and for intentional killing from the age of 13, and for other specifically named offences from the age of 14. [Criminal Code, Article 17]

Viet Nam.

A child aged 14 or older can be held criminally responsible for “very serious crimes intentionally committed or particularly serious crimes”. A child aged 16 or older can be held criminally responsible for any offence.

Children aged 14 to 18 are classified as “juvenile offenders” if they are convicted of a criminal offence. [Criminal Code, Articles 12 and 68]

Yemen.

No one can be held criminally responsible for an act committed while under the age of seven.1 [Republican Decree, Law No. 12 of 1994 concerning crimes and penalties, Section 31]