1.2 National youth law
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There is no one general Law on Youth in the sense of a comprehensive Youth Act. The Children and Youth mainstreaming is used and therefore the specificity of the young generation is reflected somehow in most state (sectoral) policies.
Youth legal matters in the Czech Republic could be sorted in several areas with the following scope:
- International Treaties
- Civil Code
- Criminal Code
- Health and other areas
Generally, the following laws have a common aim:
- Define age limits and specific Youth categories.
- Offer reasonable ease in life situations.
- Protect Children and Young people from harmful influences.
- Impose an educational effect.
The Constitution of the Czech Republic (No. 1/1993 Sb.)
Does not define a specific category of Youth although some civic rights are regulated by age (both passive and active voting rights).
The Charter on Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms (No. 2/1993 Sb.)
The Charter grants additional rights specific to young people:
- Specific rights in protection of adolescents’ health at work and to special work conditions.
- Protection for children and adolescents.
- Guarantees parents the right to care for and bring up their children, while reciprocally granting children the right to parental upbringing and care.
- Right to education, specifying that primary and secondary school education must always be free of charge.
International treaties are part of the 'primary' law acts, therefore they are a vital part of the Czech legal system.
InternationalCovenant on Civil and Political Rights
Juvenile justice practices are thus based on international standards.
International Covenant onEconomic, Social and Cultural Rights
Focus in the youth field on adolescents in relation to work and employment (No. 120/1976 Sb.); both were ratified in 1976.
- Part of the Czech law since 1991 (No. 104/1991 Sb.).
- The Czech Republic has adopted all 4 optional protocols (1st in 2002, 2nd in 2013, 3rd in 2016 and 4th in 2019)
Other relevant conventions include:
- Human Rights Committee,
- Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
- Committee against Torture,
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,
- The European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (No. 95/1974 Sb.),
- The Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation inRespect of Inter-country Adoption (No. 42/2000 Sb.),
- The Worst Forms ofChild Labour Convention (No. 90/2002 Sb.),
- The European Convention onthe Exercise of Children’s Rights (No. 54/2001 Sb.),
- The European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children (No. 66/2000 Sb.),
- The European Convention on the Legal Status of Children born out of Wedlock (No. 47/2001 Sb.),
- The European Convention on the Adoption of Children (No. 132/2000 Sb.),
- The Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcementand Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures forthe Protection of Children (No. 141/2000 Sb.),
- The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (No. 34/1998 Sb.).
(New) Civil Code (No. 89/2012 Sb.)
- Full legal competence achieved by 18 years of age (exceptions granted by the Court to a person of at least 16 years due to the need of full legal competence – e.g. family business running).
- Until the age of 16 years, a legal representative can prohibit employment of a young person, if they believe it could be against the educational interests of the young person (parents also have a right to cancel an already existing contract, if the Court approves. The young person can contradict this through the Court in the process before approval).
- Young people aged at least 16 years can be granted full legal competence by the Court in case such necessity arises, e.g. marriage, youth entrepreneur, etc.
- In court, a child's opinion is given importance appropriate to their age and mental maturity; general personal mental maturity is considered by 12 years of age.
- Family law became part of the Civil Code and has been widely modernised. The Rights of Children are more precise.
Criminal Code (No. 40/2009 Sb.)
- In relation to criminal justice, children are considered as persons of 18 years of age or younger.
- This serves as a complementary law to the Youth Justice Act.
Youth Justice Act (No. 218/2003 Sb., as amended in 2019)
- Specification that young people between 15 and 18 years of age are considered juveniles.
- Juveniles are subjected to limited criminal responsibility - prioritising preventive goals and punishment measures, with the exception of capital crimes.
- Specification of the role and function of Juvenile Courts in relation to:
- Juridical personnel
- Residential jurisdiction
- Obligation to examine and consider the individual and social background and context of juvenile offenders
- The need to align court decisions with the mental and psychological maturity of juvenile offenders
- Obligation to consider the interests of the victim and prefer educational measures over punishments
- Requirement for the juvenile offender and their legal guardian to both be present throughout any trial proceedings
- Option to postpone any punishment for up to one year in favour of finalising the education of the juvenile offender
- Punishment measures consist of community service, financial measures (with conditional delay), forfeiture, ineligibility, expulsion, imprisonment (with conditional delay).
- Protective measures could be granted, e.g.
- Protective upbringing in the home environment
- Special institutional upbringing
- Educational measures could also be taken, such as
- Supervision by a probation officer
- Probation programme
- Limitations on upbringing
- Duties in upbringing
- The Right of obligatory attorney is 18 years of age, in some cases 21 years if it is considered appropriate in view of the juvenile's level of intellectual and moral maturity and the circumstances of the case.
Labour Code (No. 262/2006 Sb.)
- People below 18 years of age cannot work more than 8 hours a day and more than 40 hours per week.
- Children and young people can only be employed for work adequate to their mental and physical state and with 'special support', which is however not specified further.
- Young people cannot be employed in mining or quarrying, or carry out night shifts (10 pm – 6 am).
- Employers are obligated, for up to 2 years after a young person finishes secondary school, to provide specialized professional practice for them, again how to achieve this is not further defined.
Education Act(Act No. 561/2004 Sb. on Pre-school, Elementary, Secondary, Tertiary Professional and Other Education as amended)
- The Act defines the Czech Schooling and Education system and stipulates principles such as free access to primary and secondary education.
- The Act is accompanied by the Act on Pedagogical workers (No. 563/2004 Sb.), which regulates the role and responsibilities of pedagogical personnel, including teachers.
- It enforces compulsory education for 9 years (compulsory education starts commonly in the year during which children turn 6, and can be postponed no later than the 8th birthday of a child).
- Homeschooling is possible on specific request and under certain conditions.
- Students have a right
- to education and school services,
- to information on educational processes and results,
- to vote for and to be elected to the school board,
- to establish self-governing school student bodies and vote for and to be elected for them
- Students are obliged to attend school, to accept and behave according to school rules, and to follow instructions given by the pedagogical staff.
- Promotion of political parties and movements is prohibited on school premises.
- The Education Act foresees three additional forms of educational provision:
- Elementary art education, including musical or theatre education, which is undertaken in the Elementary Art School (Základní umělecká škola)
- Language education, provided in schools entitled to conduct state language exams
- Education developing personal interests ('Hobby education' or also 'leisure-based education', sometimes also 'interest education' – zájmové vzdělávání), provided in Children and Youth Leisure-Time Centres, school clubs and after-school centres
- Other forms of Youth Work and Non-Formal Education of Youth are not legally defined.
- For more details see Chapter 6 and Chapter 10.
Social-legal child protection Act (Act No. 359/1999 Sb., as amended)
- Guarantees social and legal protection of children (up to 18 years of age) through a number of institutional provisions on different levels, with local authorities being granted extended competencies in an extensively decentralised framework for social and legal protection.
- Amended in 2012 to strengthen the interests of children being brought up in their own families, and to further and better support parents in bringing up their children.
- The main focus is the protection of children's rights regarding positive personal development, upbringing, and protection of the legitimate interests of the child, including the protection of their assets.
- It defines support services for children in difficult situations as well as measures to be taken to protect children and young people from domestic violence or other serious threats.
- It defines circumstances when a child should be removed from a dysfunctional family and placed under protective guardianship, how the rights of the child must be protected in such situations, and which procedure must be applied for a due process.
- Social workers have gained a wide array of supporting tools and measures that are at their disposal to support children and their families.
- In 2020, the government adopted an amendment. The aim is to modify the financing of facilities for children in need of assistance, support for alternative family care in order to motivate carers to accept especially children with disabilities and multiple sibling groups by adjusting the amount of foster care benefits.
Act on institutional and protective education in schools and on preventive educational care in school facilities(Act No. 109/2002 Sb.)
- Defines the forms of institutional care for children: Diagnostic Institutes, Children’s Homes, Children’s Homes with Schools, and Educational Institutions.
- Institutional care offers services for children placed in institutional care, institutional education and/or protective education.
- Children are provided with board and lodging, textbooks and educational materials, health insurance, travel costs to schools and some pocket money, and are entitled to support for leaving the institution in question after having reached the legal age of majority.
There are also Facilities for Children requiring immediate assistance (often known as 'Klokánky', from a project of the private Fund of endangered Children), in which no more than 28 children may stay for no more than 6 months. These facilities are authorised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. However, complications sometimes arise when it is in the interest of the Child to stay longer - the Court has to make a decision about this.
Act on Public Health Protection (No. 258/2000 Sb., as amended)
Regulates state and public Authorities' activity in the area of protection of public health and public hygiene. The field of public services of Hygiene of Children and Youth is introduced and regulated. For more details see Chapter 7).
Act on the protection of health against the harmful effects of addictive substances (No. 65/2017 Sb. as amended)
Replaced The Act on measures to protect against the damage caused by tobacco, alcohol and other addictive substances and amending related laws (No. 379/2005 Sb. amended, valid till 30.05.2017)
Enable public drug policy. Prohibits e.g. selling or giving tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and alcohol to persons younger than 18 years. The consumption as such is not prohibited by age, but the Act delimits places where the consumption is prohibited as school facilities, sports facilities by the majority for children and young people up to 18 years of age, child social-legal protection facilities etc.
Act on Gambling games (No. 186/2016 Sb.)
Prohibits participation of young people below 18 years in lotteries and similar games, including prohibiting the entry of persons younger than 18 years.
Replaced the Act on lotteries and similar games no. 202/1990 Sb.
The Act on Road Traffic (No. 361/2000 Sb. amended)
- Defines specific protective measures as well as duties for young people and children.
- For example, cyclists under 18 years are obliged to wear a helmet while cycling on roads and streets.
- Gaining a driving licence for different motorised vehicles varies (in principle similar to other European countries, the age limit for smaller motorbikes is 15 years, for larger motorbikes it is 16 years, and for standard cars the limit is 18 years).
- Every child weighing up to 36 kilograms and measuring up to 150 centimetres must travel in a car seat.
Voluntary service Act (No. 198/2002 Sb.)
- Provides the basic legal framework for voluntary services; youth can volunteer under this framework from the age of 15 years, and abroad from 18 years of age. For more details see Chapter 2.
- Repeatedly criticised for being insufficient in the youth field.
Civil Code revision
The Civil code reform valid since 2014 represents the biggest private law change in the Czech Republic during the last decades and has abolished more than 100 specific laws and unified the legal base, introducing many comprehensive changes. This reform becomes directly relevant for Youth Policy through the inclusion of Family laws into the New Civil Code, which, however, does not specify youth as a legal notion. The New Civil Code is in effect since 1st of January 2014. Also, young people and children gained more Rights, or rather their Rights were made more specific.
Throughout the development of the Youth Justice Act, the potential lowering of the age of minimum criminal responsibility was discussed alongside lowering the age of consent (both from 15 to 14). However, neither change was introduced. By the beginning of 2016, the Minister of Justice picked up this question again, but in 2017 the change was not adopted by the Parliament.
In 2020, an amendment was adopted. The reason for the change was mainly the discussed change in the completion of secondary education. The amendment to the law abolishes the obligation of the matura examination in mathematics. It was originally supposed to be compulsory from 2021. The obligatory graduation exam in mathematics has been a long-discussed topic for years.
Volunteering is an area of law and policy-making of high importance for youth associations as well as organisations working with children and young people. While the Czech Council of Children and Youth as well as the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports have been working for several years on the preparation of a dedicated volunteering support law, it has not yet been finalised. The new Act on volunteering was being prepared by the Ministry of Interior but declined by the end of 2016. For further details see Chapter 2 on Volunteering.
Youth (Work) Act
There have been several discussions on a special Youth Act even in communist Czechoslovakia (first draft proposal in 1987). However, after the democratic change in 1989 it was seen to be very ideological, and therefore there have been several other tries for a Youth Act. The most recent was in 2006 when a Youth Act proposal was limited to only Youth Work standards, which again were not fully compatible with reality and the desired outcomes and therefore it was denied by the Parliament in 2006. Since then there has been no real discussion on the introduction of a specific Youth Act or Youth Work Act until 2022, when the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports started to develop its outline together with the Parliamentary Subcommittee on Youth and Free-time Activities. A draft version is expected to be discussed in 2023.