/ The Human Rights Ombudsman / Rights and duties of children
Rights and duties of children

The constitution provides that children enjoy special protection and care. The most important document governing children’s rights is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. By signing this convention, the state undertakes to ensure funds and measures whereby it will protect children from violence, battery, abuse and neglect. Special state protection is enjoyed by those children not cared for by their parents, and those that have no parents or that lack proper family care.

Children’s rights have an absolute quality, which means that they must be observed by parents as well as others. The most important right of children is that their parents care for them, and for their health, life and personal development. Children must be provided with the conditions for growth and for being prepared for independent life and work. Parents must create for their children the conditions for intellectual and moral development. They must ensure for their children freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of association and peaceful assembly. Parents must maintain their children, meaning that they must cover the costs of their living, raising, schooling and education. The extent of maintenance depends on the child’s needs and the capacities of the parents. Adult children must be maintained by their parents where owing to mental or physical disability the children are unable to look after themselves. The duty of maintenance also applies for adult children that are completing their studies, but this is somewhat mitigated. Such children are capable of work, so the parents are not bound to stretch their efforts to their absolute capacity.

Children are also given certain duties. In particular, children are bound to fulfil the decisions that their parents make in their interest. They must respect the instructions and advice of their parents, and assist them in work that is appropriate to their age and state of health. Such work may not, however, threaten the child’s education. Children are obliged to live with their parents or where the parents decide. Parents may achieve all of this through self-help, punishments and similar actions. After the age of 15, if children are working then they must contribute to their education and maintenance.

Although children reach majority only at the age of 18, they are acknowledged a certain degree of majority at the age of 15. From that age, they may dispose independently of their earnings. They may themselves conclude legal transactions, although they still require the permission of their parents for those that would tend to have a major influence on their later life. They may take work and sign employment contracts, dispose of their own copyright and intellectual rights, and they may conduct their own civil litigation in the courts and write valid wills. On reaching the age of 15, children may marry and recognise paternity over their own children. Since in this way they become prematurely adult, they require the permission of a Social Work Centre, which permits this on the condition that the child is physically and mentally mature and capable of independent life.