Children’s Commissioner in favour of giving 16-year-olds right to vote
The Commissioner for Children believes that giving 16-year-olds the right to vote empowers young people to participate in important decisions that affect both themselves and others. In this context, young people need to understand the value of their vote and its impact on society in general, the commissioner said in a statement.
It is thus now, more than ever, imperative that educators, including parents, guardians and extended families, take it upon themselves to encourage young people to think, criticise, commend and be full members of the society they live in. We should be aiming at a political society but not a partisan one, where the issue carries weight rather than the politician talking about it, the commissioner said.
As a society, we need to acknowledge that at age 16, there are already a number of social responsibilities that are automatically assumed by an individual. At 16 years of age, an individual can, amongst others:
• act as a trader and run a business;
• open and operate a bank account;
• draw up a will;
• be held criminally responsible for any wrongdoing. Moreover, if employed, a 16year-old pays taxes, and should therefore expect representation.
The National Children’s Policy, launched last month, recognises that children should be active citizens who engage in the democratic process, social participation, environmental activism and innovation, volunteering and social entrepreneurship.
Furthermore, the policy encourages views presented by children to be taken into account through democratic participation by extending full voting rights to young people aged 16.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child insists on the child’s right to have an opinion that is listened to as well as the right to association and affiliation with groups and organisations of the child’s choice.