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Access_open Safeguarding the Dynamic Legal Position of Children: A Matter of Age Limits?

Reflections on the Fundamental Principles and Practical Application of Age Limits in Light of International Children’s Rights Law

Tijdschrift Erasmus Law Review, Aflevering 1 2020
Trefwoorden age limits, dynamic legal position, children’s rights, maturity, evolving capacities
Auteurs Stephanie Rap, Eva Schmidt en Ton Liefaard
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    In this article a critical reflection upon age limits applied in the law is provided, in light of the tension that exists in international children’s rights law between the protection of children and the recognition of their evolving autonomy. The main research question that will be addressed is to what extent the use of (certain) age limits is justified under international children’s rights law. The complexity of applying open norms and theoretically underdeveloped concepts as laid down in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, related to the development and evolving capacities of children as rights holders, will be demonstrated. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child struggles to provide comprehensive guidance to states regarding the manner in which the dynamic legal position of children should be applied in practice. The inconsistent application of age limits that govern the involvement of children in judicial procedures provides states leeway in granting children autonomy, potentially leading to the establishment of age limits based on inappropriate – practically, politically or ideologically motivated – grounds.


Stephanie Rap
Stephanie Rap is assistant professor in children’s rights at the Department of Child Law, Leiden Law School, the Netherlands.

Eva Schmidt
Eva Schmidt is PhD candidate at the Department of Child Law, Leiden Law School, the Netherlands.

Ton Liefaard
Ton Liefaard is Vice-Dean of Leiden Law School and holds the UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights at Leiden University, Leiden Law School, the Netherlands.
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