Who is a Child? Why is it difficult to define a child?


The laws of our country make provisions for child in different aspects. It is very important to define a ‘child’ so that the laws can be made applicable to the ones who come in the category of ‘child’. But there is not a single definition of child which is valid for all the Acts. The definition of ‘child’ in India is varies in different statutes.

Definitions of ‘child’

According to Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, “child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” Therefore, International Law gives the status of child to the persons who are below eighteen years of age.

Different definitions of ‘child’ and ‘minor’, according to different Indian laws are as follows:

  • Section 2(ii) of The Child Labour (Protection and Regulation) Act, 1986 states that “child means a person who has not completed his fourteenth year of age. This Act aims at prohibiting the engagement of children in work. Therefore, this Act makes provisions for the persons who have not completed their fourteenth year of age.
  • According to Section 2(c) of The Plantations Labour Act, 1951, “child means a person who has not completed his fifteenth year.” This Act has been formed for the welfare of people who are engaged in plantation. Section 24 of the Act further categorises young children and states that “no child who has not completed his twelfth year shall be required or allowed to work in any plantation.” Section 25 prohibits the engagement of ‘child’ in the plantation work except between the hours of 6 A.M. and 7 P.M.
  • The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961 which aims at regulation of conditions of work of motor transport workers, defines child as “a person who has not completed his fifteenth year.” Section 21 of the Act prohibits the employment of a ‘child’ in motor transport undertaking.
  • According to Section 2(b) of The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966, “Child means a person who has not completed fourteen years of age.” This Act makes provisions for the welfare of the workers who are engaged in beedi and cigar manufacturing institutions. Section 24 of the Act says that, “No child is required or allowed to work in any industry premises.”
  • Definition of child in The Prohibitions of Child Marriage Act, 2006 is, “child means a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age.” The main objective of this Act is to prevent child marriages and Section 3 of the Act makes the child marriage voidable at the option of a person who was a child at the time of marriage.
  • Child according to The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 “means a person who has not completed eighteen years of age.” Juvenile Justice Act makes provisions for the welfare and developmental needs of the juveniles. A person who has not completed eighteen years of age is given the status of child under this Act and therefore, it is applicable to them.
  • Section 2(d) of The Protection of Children from sexual offences Act, 2012 states that, “child means any person below the age of eighteen years.” This Act simply aims to protect the children from sexual offences and harassment.

Every law is formed with different objectives and therefore, in order to solve the purpose of their establishment, ‘child’ has been defined differently. However, the different definitions of ‘child’ in Indian Laws create ambiguity and confusion so it is very essential to give a single definition which is common in all the laws of India.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

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I am Ritika Sharma, pursuing B.com LLB (Hons.) from University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. My fields of interest are Law and psychology. I love to research and write articles and poems on social issues. I have a penchant for reading novels of different genres. When I am not reading or writing, I am probably sketching and watching movies. I like exploring and knowing the facts of mysterious places and incidents as well.