What are my rights and responsibilities as a young citizen?
Young people acquire rights and responsibilities at different ages. At ten, for instance, a child may be tried in a youth court and found guilty at a crime. Further, it is only at the age of eighteen that you finally cease to be a ‘minor’, with special legal protection. In the eyes of the law, an eighteen-year-old has reached the ‘age of majority’. But even then, there are certain things you cannot do. For example, you cannot stand for the Parliament until you are twenty-one. Let us understand these rights age-wise:
- A child can have a deposit or current bank account right from her or his birth. However, the account cannot be in her or his name. This is because an account holder has to be able to sign own name.
- A child must start her or his education at this age.
- At this age a child can have a deposit account in a National Service Bank and draw money on own signature.
- At the age of ten, a child can be found guilty of a crime under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. She or he can even be convicted of a criminal offence but will be tried in a youth court unless the offence is serious, such as murder.
- At this age a child can have a deposit account in the Trustee Savings Bank and can draw money on own signature.
- At this age a child becomes eligible to buy a pet.
- At the age of thirteen, a child can do light work as permitted under local authority by-laws. They are: She or he can work between 7.00 am to 7.00 pm from Monday to Saturday and between 7.00 am to 10.00 am on a Sunday. These hours do not include school hours or for more than two hours on a school day or Sunday (and not lifting or carrying heavy weights).
- A child can be taken into a bar at the age of fourteen. The child must not consume alcohol there; she or he can drink wine, beer or cider with a meal in another part of the pub or in a restaurant.
- There are many rights that a child acquires at this age. She or he can join the armed forces (with parents’ consent), marry with the consent of parents or a magistrate, consent to have sexual intercourse (heterosexual or homosexual), can buy beer, cider or sherry in a restaurant (but not in a bar, off-licence or supermarket), can buy tobacco, can ride a moped or scooter up to 50cc, and can leave a school and take job.
- At this age a child can drive a car or van with up to eight seats and maximum weight of 3500 kg. She or he can also drive a motorbike, a three-wheeler vehicle or a roadroller.
- Eighteen is the ‘age of majority’. On reaching this age, one can drive a goods vehicle of up to 7.5 tonnes, apply for and obtain a passport, vote in general and local elections, and join the armed forces without parents’ consent. She or he can sign contracts, sue and be sued and can even marry without parental consent. It is at this age only that one can start to buy alcoholic drinks in a pub, bar, off-licence or supermarket. Further, one can also obtain a credit card and can get a tattoo.
- At this age one can stand for council or parliamentary elections and can drive a lorry or a bus.