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Three Voices: What Should Namibia's Age of Majority Be?

Originally Aired:

Date: 27 April 2009
Program: Your Rights, Right Now! a weekly radio show from the Legal Assistance Centre.
Broadcast on: BASE fm, 106.2

The Age of Majority
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Finally 21.
Finally the keys to adulthood.
21 means freedom.
21 means celebration.
21 means you’ve finally reached the age of majority.

At least that’s how it stands under current Namibian law.
But maybe Namibia’s age of majority should be lowered to 18.

Welcome to Your Rights, Right Now, a weekly show looking at human rights around Namibia. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is revising the Child Care and Protection Bill and the public is being invited to give their opinions or raise their concerns before this draft becomes law.

Today, we’re looking at the age of majority.

Currently, Namibia’s age of majority is set at 21, according to a 1972 law called the Age of Majority Act.

However, the draft Child Care and Protection Act defines a child as being someone below the age of 18. This is in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Both documents define the age of a child as a person below 18.

As it currently stands in Namibia, children under 21 are considered minors. However, they are given certain rights as they mature.

In a moment, you’re going to hear the opinions from three Namibian youth. At each of their ages, they have been given certain legal rights.

At Suzandi’s age of 16, who you’ll hear from first, a person has the legal right to make a will, open and operate a bank account and consent to sexual activity.

“My name is Suzandi Shifier I’m 16 years old and currently a Grade 11 student at the David Bezuidenhout high school.

I’m a minor. The concept minor relates to the child and its legal capacity. As a minor, society allows me limited rights only. I’m very happy with the limited rights I have. Imagine if I were to be given all rights. Mentally I wouldn’t be ready to handle all of them. My life would be clashing at all corners. The basic rights that I’m allowed are more than enough to help me develop positively into adulthood. However, a lot of my peers would still argue for more rights.

The common right wanted by most 16 year olds would be the right to free education. A lot of minors are less fortunate and would really love to help themselves out of their difficult situations. But the fact that they have to pay to go to school discourages them.

Here are some of my rights as a 16 year old living in Namibia.
I have a right to make a will and this be accepted by other people. But it will be my responsibility to make the right choices. That’s why I would advise every 16-year-old to consult older people before making decisions. I also have the right to open and operate a bank account and this comes with a lot of responsibility. I also have the right to consent to sexual activity. But even though I have the right to sexual activity, mentally and emotionally I’m not ready for that. With having sex has a lot of consequences.

Two years from now I will be 18 years. At this age I will be allowed to do more things. For example, I will be allowed to drive a car and drink alcohol. In some countries 16 year olds are allowed to drive and consume alcohol. But with driving a car and drinking alcohol comes a lot of risk. I feel the rights of an 18 year old in Namibia are perfectly suited for their mental capacity.

However, I am against the lowering of the age of majority from 21 years to 18 years. A person at the age of 18 is still a teenager. They are still very dependent on their parents and guardians. A person at the age of 21 is independent and responsible. Therefore I feel the age of majority should be held at 21 years.”

Now let’s hear from someone who is 18. At this age, a person has the legal right to: work in any type of job, drive, buy alcohol, gamble, obtain a firearm, vote, give consent to medical treatment or be tried for a crime as an adult and be locked up in prison with adults.

This is what 18-year-old Ujs (pron. ACE) Mushalwa had to say about his legal rights.

“My name is Uijs Mushalwa. I am a student at Jan Jonker High and I am 18 years old.
In my view, a child is a young person who is not yet 18 years old. Being 18 means that a person is becoming an adult; there are more responsibilities and they are getting greater. I personally feel that what people are allowed to do at this age is quite fair considering the fact that you can make your choices and know the consequences of them. This makes you responsible for your choices.

One benefit of being 18 is that you can go out to clubs. I don’t know if this is a good idea as it could distract you from your studies. Being able to get a job or a drivers license are good things because both help you become independent.
Some 18 year olds take wrong paths and make wrong choices because of peer pressure. Some follow the rules and some do not.

There are certain important things that people do not feel ready for even though they are allowed.

The main one is consenting to sexual activities. I feel 16 is too young for being able to consent to sex.

I personally don’t feel ready to vote, just because I don’t know very much about politics.
I don’t think the age of majority should be brought down to 18 because too many wrong choices would be made and many 18 year olds are not mature enough to be responsible for their actions. But I do agree with having any job and being able to drive at 18.”

Okay, 18 year olds have a lot of rights. But let’s make it clear. 18-year-olds are not considered adults by law. Minors cannot legally enter into contracts without the assistance from their responsible parent or guardian. Minors cannot get married without the consent of their parents or guardians. Minors cannot sell or mortgage land. Minors cannot administer money or property which they have inherited.

In most other countries, the age of majority is set at 18. That means at 18, young people are entitled to full legal rights and responsibilities.

Let’s hear what Frans Saharia, a 21-year-old, has to say about lowering the age of majority to 18 from 21 in Namibia.

“My name is Franz Saharia and I am a 21 years old.

When under the age of 18 one is usually considered to be a minor child by law because the law believes that you are young and unable to take on the world. I agree with this.

I think that 16and 17 year olds believe that they can look after themselves but in fact they cannot. Life is a mental game and minors are missing an adult mind.

Minors gradually acquire more and more legal rights as they mature. It seems as though law makers are trying to prepare minors for adulthood.

A 16 year old can make a will and open a bank account. I agree that these are good steps. A 16 year old can also consent to sexual activity. This one is debatable. Maybe this is allowed because it is too difficult to control though.

When I was 16, I didn’t know very much. I was still in high school and very dependent on my parents. I lived under my parents rules and I was not allowed to do certain things like coming home late for example. Looking back now, I understand why.

An 18 year old can obtain a firearm license, buy alcohol, drive, and even vote.

As I grew older, my parents gave me certain rights and when I turned 18, I became a man of my own.

The major issue here is the rule though about the age of majority which at the moment is set at 21 in Namibia.

Personally I think that it should be lowered to age 18 now. There actually is not much difference between what an 18 year old can do and what a 21 year old can do right now. If an 18 year old can buy alcohol, own a gun, gamble and even be locked up in prison with adults why deny them the right to the age of majority?

Since I was 18, life has been pretty much the same for me until today. Just a few minor changes happened at 21.

As for 16 year olds, in my mind they are still very young, impressionable and just not ready for the responsibilities that come with the age of majority.”

What do you think?
We’ve heard differening opinions today about lowering the age of majority.

Do you think 18-year-olds ready for the full responsibilities of being an adult?
Are they ready to enter into legally binding contracts?
Are they responsible to make personal and business decisions without parental consent?

The committee drafting the Child Care & Protection Act wants to hear from you. They want to create a law that reflects the views and values of Namibians. They want to hear your thoughts on whether or not the age of majority should be changed. Tell them why or why not you think the law should be changed.

You can comment and offer your thoughts by several ways. You can SMS to 081-424-1591. You can email You can fax 088-613-715. Or your can mail your comments to PO Box 604, Windhoek.

Finally, you can learn more about this topic by picking up a Fact Sheet at the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare or by visiting the Legal Assistance Centre at 4 Korner Street Windhoek. You can also download the factsheet by visiting the LAC’s web site at

You’ve been listening to Your Rights, Right Now, a Legal Assistance Centre radio production. Today, we’ve been talking about lowering the Age of Majority from 21, as it currently stands under Namibian law to the age of 18, as being proposed in the Child Care and Protection Bill.

Special thanks goes out to: the crew at Physically Active Youth for participating in this discussion, to Mark Nonkes and Anne Joyce who produced this show and to (musicians) whose music you’ve been listening to.

Remember, change starts with you.
For Your Rights, Right Now, I’m Nunu.