Under-18s and the Law

Under-18s and the Law

Legally, a child is a person under the age of 18 (the age of majority).

Guyana is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects the rights and interests of persons under 18 around the globe. To read the Convention, follow this link

The Convention recognises that in all matters relating to under-18s their best interest is most important and that they have the right to express their opinions and to have those opinions heard and acted upon when appropriate.

Everyone under 18 has the right to be protected from abuse or exploitation, to have their privacy protected and not be subject to excessive interference.

The parliament of Guyana has passed many laws that deal with under-18s. For information about those that deal with family matters, such as custody, maintenance, adoption, inheritance rights and domestic violence follow this link to The Law and You .

Here are answers to some questions that under-18s often ask.

Do I have to go to school?

  • It is compulsory for you to go to school from the age of 5 to at least 15

  • Your parents must make sure that you go to school and learn the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic

  • If you are often found wandering out of school during school hours, your parents may be fined and you may be forced by the court to attend an elementary or industrial school

Can I get a job?

  • If you are under 15 you cannot work, unless you are working with only members of your family

  • If you are between 15 and 16, there are certain industrial jobs that you cannot do at night, unless you are working with only members of your family. These jobs include work in mines, quarries, factories, electrical stations, and construction.

  • If you are over 16 you can do certain industrial jobs at night, but only making iron and steel, glass making, paper making, making raw sugar and gold mining, and only under certain conditions

Can I leave home?

You have no absolute right to leave home until you are 18, but if you are over 15 you will not normally be forced to go home against your wishes. Each case will depend on its facts - especially on the attitudes of your parents, your maturity, and such factors as satisfactory accommodation, employment and a lifestyle that the
authorities regard as reasonable.

Can I drive?

  • If you are under 16 you cannot drive any vehicle on the road

  • When you are 17 and have qualified for a driver’s licence you can drive a motorbike or car on the road

  • If you are under 18 you cannot drive a hire car, bus, lorry or tractor on the road, except that you can drive a tractor if you work an estate or plantation and driving the tractor is part of your work

Can I have sex?

  • If you are 16 or over you can have sexual relations with someone of the opposite sex who is 16 or older, if both of you consent.

  • No one under 16 can legally consent to have sex

  • No one of any age can legally have sex with someone who is their child, grandchild, brother or sister, parent or grandparent

Can I get contraceptive advice?

Whatever your age:

  • Advice on contraception and protection against HIV/AIDS can be obtained from a doctor or other health services and NGOs such as the GRPA

  • You can get free condoms from health services and NGOs such as the GRPA

  • There is no legal requirement for your parent/guardian to consent for you to receive contraceptive medical advice or treatment

Can I get tested for HIV/AIDS?

Whatever your age:

  • You can get tested for HIV/AIDS at any testing site

  • There is no legal requirement for your parent/guardian to consent for you to be tested

Can I get an abortion?

Whatever your age:

  • If you are not more than 16 weeks pregnant your pregnancy can be legally terminated by a doctor

  • There is no legal requirement for the doctor to either obtain your parents’/guardians’ consent to the termination or to notify them of it

Can I get married?

  • If you are under 16 you cannot get married

  • If you are 16 or 17 you can only get married
    with your parents’/guardians’ consent or with leave of the Chief Justice

  • You cannot marry someone who is already married

  • You cannot marry certain kinds of blood relations (e.g. your parent, grandparent, brother/sister, aunt/uncle)

  • You cannot marry certain kinds of relations by marriage (e.g. your step-parent or parent-in-law)

  • You cannot marry someone of the same sex

  • You cannot be forced to get married. Any marriage ceremony that you are forced to go through will be void (of no legal effect)

  • If you go through a marriage ceremony and are drunk or mistaken as to the identity of the other party or as to the nature of the ceremony (do not realise that you are getting married), it will be void

Can I buy alcohol?

  • If you are under 16 you are not allowed to be in the bar of any licensed premises
  • You cannot buy or be given alcohol on licensed premises unless you are over 16 and the alcohol is to be drunk with a meal provided in part of the premises that is not a bar
  • You should never be asked to go to any licensed premises to buy alcohol. If you are asked, you should refuse and tell the person asking that what they want you to do is against the law

Can I sue (take someone to civil court)?

  • You can sue for damages (for example if you have been knocked down by a car) but the court action must be brought in your name by a next friend who is an adult who guarantees to pay costs if they are ordered against you

  • If the case is settled out of court, the settlement must be approved by the court, which has to be satisfied that the settlement is for your benefit of the child, having regard to all of the evidence

Can I be sued (taken to civil court)?

  • Even though you are under 18 you are generally responsible (liable) for the consequences of your wrongful acts

  • However,the degree of reasonable care required depends on your age and the standard of care normally expected of someone of that age

  • To some extent the rules applying to under-18s are different from those for adults who commit wrongful acts, especially where a person's state of mind is an essential
    consideration. A young child may be aware of what s/he is doing, and even know that the action is wrong, but still be incapable of foreseeing its consequences and will therefore not have acted negligently

  • The closer you are to adulthood, the more the standard of care will resemble that required of an adult. For example, if you are old enough to drive a car you will probably be expected to meet the standard of care applicable to an adult

  • If you are sued (for example if you have knocked someone down while driving), an adult (usually your parent/guardian), who is called a guardian ad litem,
    should defend the case on your behalf

  • Where a case in which you have been sued is settled out of court, the settlement must be approved by the court, which has to be satisfied that the settlement is for your benefit of the child, having regard to all of the evidence

Can I own property?

  • You cannot own a vehicle until you are 17

  • You can own land (immovable property) but until you are 18 it will be looked after by your parent/guardian (who must get leave of the court before selling or mortgaging it)

Can I make a contract (a legally binding agreement)?

  • Any agreement you make to repay money lent or to be lent or for goods supplied or to be supplied (except for necessaries – see below) will be invalid (cannot be enforced against you)

  • Any agreement you make after you reach 18 to repay any money lent to you before you reached 18 will be invalid

  • You will be legally bound by any agreement you make for the supply of necessaries (the basic requirements for a reasonable lifestyle, e.g. food, clothes, housing, etc.), for which must pay a reasonable price, although this may not always be the contract price

  • You will be legally bound by agreements for apprenticeship and employment (as long as you are old enough to get a job) if they are reasonable and for your benefit

  • You will be bound by an agreement under which you receive some kind of interest in permanent property (e.g. a tenancy or partnership agreement) unless you repudiate (avoid) it at any time up to the age of 18 or within a reasonable time after turning 18

Can I be found guilty of a crime?

  • If you are under 10 you cannot be guilty of a crime

  • If you are under 17 and are arrested, unless you have been charged with a serious crime like murder you must be released

  • If you are under 17 and are not released, you should not be held with adults other than relatives charged with the same crime

  • If you are under 17 you cannot be sent to prison

  • If you are under 17 and convicted of a crime, one of the following orders may be made:

    • you may be ordered to attend a school for young offenders

    • the charge may be dismissed,

    • you may be put under the supervision of a probation officer

    • you may be put into the custody of a relative

    • you may be whipped

    • you may be ordered to pay a fine

    • your parents or guardian may be ordered to pay a fine

  • If you are under 17 and found guilty of a crime that would be punishable with imprisonment if you were an adult, you may be sent to a training school. If you are over 16 you may be ordered to stay until you reach 18 and if you under 16 you may be ordered to stay for a period of between 2 and 3 years

  • If you are under 17 and are found begging in the street or wandering or your parents are unfit to take care of you, you may be ordered to be taken in by a relative until you reach 16 years old

Can I make a will?

If you are 14 you can make a will without the consent of your parent/guardian

This information is meant for guidance only. If you have any questions about your rights or have a legal problem, please visit us 2nd Floor, Eastern Section, Maraj Building, 185 Charlotte & King Streets, Georgetown), call us (225 6896)
or
email us (
under18slegalaid@guyana.net.gy)