GAMBIA: National Laws

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Summary: General overview of Gambia'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 Children's Act 2005 purported to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but it is not clear precisely how this legislation functions in practice, nor whether the Convention has been cited in domestic courts.

Constitution: Chapter IV of the Gambian Constitution contains a substantial number of rights provisions that apply to all citizens regardless of age, but the Constitution also contains a small number that make specific reference to the rights of children:

  • Section 29(1): provides that children have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire nationality and, subject to legislation, to know and be cared for by their parents
  • Section 29(2): provides that children under 16 years are entitled to protection from economic exploitation and cannot be required to perform work that is hazardous or that interferes with their education or will be harmful to their health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development
  • Section 29(3): requires juvenile offenders to be detained separately from adults
  • Section 216(2): requires the State to pursue policies to protect the rights and freedoms of, among other groups, children

Legislation: Gambian law is formed from a variety of sources, including national legislation, Sharia and customary law. The Children's Act contains a substantial amount of the law relevant to children, but relevant law can be found throughout various Acts and legal rules including, but by no means limited to:

  • The Children's Act 2005
  • The Child Trafficking Act 2007
  • The Labour Act 2007
  • The Maintenance of Children Act 1988
  • The Adoption Act 1992
  • The Tourism Offences Act 2003

Legal Research
The Constitution is available in English through the website of the National Council for Civic Education (http://www.ncce.gm/files/constitution.pdf). Gambian Ministries maintain their own websites (http://www.accessgambia.com/government.html), some of which publish limited information on laws relevant to their work, though full texts of legislation are generally not available. The U.S. Law Library of Congress provides links to selected legal resources (http://www.loc.gov/law/help/guide/nations/gambia.php) as does the World Legal Information Institute (http://www.worldlii.org/gm/).

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 Gambian court system does not maintain an official website and it does not appear that case law is readly available on the Internet.  Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any online resources that provide access to the case law of Gambia.

Compliance with the CRC
While welcoming the 1997 Constitution and its child rights provisions, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern that much domestic law, including customary law and Sharia, "does not fully reflect the principles and provisions of the Convention". The Committee also highlighted the fragmented nature of legislation related to children's rights, noting that it is dispersed among various acts and forms of legislation. The Committee has recommended that the State conduct a thorough review of national law, including customary and Islamic laws, to fully ensure compatibility with the Convention.

In depth analysis
Gambia has not reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child since 2001, and since then a great deal of legislation has been passed in relation to children's rights. The Children's Act 2005 has addressed a number of the most serious issues raised by the Committee, including prohibiting the death penalty for offences committed by juveniles and setting some of the legal minimum ages that the Committee requested. The Committee has not examined this legislation, however, so it is difficult to comment on its compatibility with the Convention.

In its 2001 Observations, the Committee was particularly critical of the absence of a legal prohibition on female genital mutilation (FGM) and the widespread practice of FGM as well as forced marriage. As of the completion of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Gambia in 2009, there was still no law prohibiting FGM and no specific law addressing forced marriage.

The Committee was also critical of the prevalence corporal punishment in schools, care, juvenile detention centres and the home, and the absence of any legal prohibition on such violence. During the UPR, stakeholder reports indicated that no law had been implemented to address the Committee's recommendations to reform relevant laws. Furthermore, while the Constitution contains a prohibition on discrimination, it makes exceptions with regards to personal law, including matters such as marriage, divorce, employment and inheritance.

Current legal reform projects
Please contact CRIN if you aware of any current legal reform projects.

Countries

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.