ETHIOPIA: National Laws

Summary: General overview of Ethiopia'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
Article 9(4) of the Constitution of Ethiopia provides that all ratified international agreements, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, are an integral part of the laws of the country. Article 13(2) further provides that the human rights provisions of the Constitution shall be interpreted in a manner conforming with international human rights covenants, also including the CRC, and the Federal Courts Proclamation empowers Federal Courts to consider cases arising under international treaties. As such, national courts should be able to directly enforce the CRC, although it is not clear whether this has happened to date.

Constitution: The Constitution contains a number of rights provisions that apply regardless of age, but also a number that specifically address the rights of children:

  • Art. 27(4): provides that parents and guardians have the right to provide religious and moral education to their children
  • Art. 34(1): requires the State to enact laws to protect the interests and rights of children in the event of the divorce of their parents
  • Art. 35(5)(a): requires legislation to determine the length of maternity leave, and for the welfare of the child to be considered in that determination
  • Art. 36: contains a number of specific children's rights provisions, including the rights to life, name, nationality and to be free from corporal punishment and other cruel or inhumane treatment in schools and institutions responsible for children.
  • Art. 41(5): requires the State to allocate, within its means, resources for children who are left without parents or guardians

Legislation: There is no comprehensive Children's Code in Ethiopian law; rather, legislation of particular relevance to children can be found throughout a number of Codes and Proclamations. Relevant legislation includes, but is by no means limited to:

  • The Penal Code
  • The Civil Code
  • The Family Code
  • The Labour Proclamation No. 42/93
  • The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission Establishment Proclamation No. 210/2000
  • The Institution of the Ombudsman Establishment Proclamation 221/2000
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child Proclamation No. 100/1998
  • The Broadcasting Proclamation No. 178/1999

Legal Research:
The Ethiopian House of the Peoples' Representatives maintains an official website that offers databases of proclamations ( and regulations ( as well as the Constitution (, all in English and Amharic. In addition, the GlobaLex project at New York University has published a guide to legal research in Ethiopia (, and the World Legal Information Institute ( and the U.S. Law Library of Congress ( both provide links to a selection of legal and governmental resources.

Case Law
CRC Jurisprudence
Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any cases in national courts that reference the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Case Law Research
The AbyssiniaLaw website publishes the case law of the Cassation division of the Supreme Court ( The website of the Federal Supreme Court also provides case law resources in Amharic ( as well as limited information in English (

Compliance with the CRC
In its 2006 Concluding Observations, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted that the State had made some progress in harmonising its legislation with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly in criminalising harmful traditional practices and child trafficking. The Committee expressed concern, however, “at the lack of a systematic legislative review and adoption of a comprehensive Children's Code”.

In depth analysis
The Committee raised more specific concerns about the pervasive shortcomings of the juvenile justice system, including the very low age of criminal responsibility (MACR) of 9 years, the absence of specialised juvenile courts throughout the country and the use of detention as other than a measure of last resort. The Committee urged the State to raise the MACR, to increase the availability and quality of specialised juvenile justice courts and judges and to ensure that detention and institutionalisation of child offenders is used only as a last resort. The practice of detaining children in prisons with their mothers was also a source of concern.

Violence against children was also a prominent feature of the the Committee's 2006 Concluding Observations. The Committee noted that the Constitution of Ethiopia contains a prohibition on the corporal punishment of children in schools and other institutions, but expressed concern that this prohibition had been ineffective and did not extend to the home. The Committee urged the State to implement a comprehensive ban on corporal punishment in all settings. The Committee also raised serious concerns about the prevalence of torture, cruel and degrading treatment of children at the hands of police and the military, including sexual violence, and urged the State combat the impunity that surrounded those who committed such offences.

In a more specific recommendation, the Committee highlighted the provisions of the Family Code (art. 195) which permitted adoptions to be revoked, raising fears that in its current form the provision may leave children without parental care. The Committee urged the State to amend the provision to ensure that children would be provided with alternative care in the event that an adoption is ended.

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.