In law, a person who is not yet a legal adult is known as a minor (known in some places as an infant or juvenile). For example, in many countries a person under the age of 18 is a minor. Most countries give additional legal protection to minors, and all countries except the United States and Somalia have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Examples of such protections include statutory rape laws, prohibitions against the use of alcohol/cigarettes, school attendance requirements, the need for adult co-signers on legal documents (e.g. contracts), driver's license requirements, separate punishment and trial (e.g. juvenile court s), child labor laws, and various other protections against exploitation and abuse.
At the same time as providing special protection, the law also denies juveniles some rights that are available to adults, such as the right to vote.
Some jurisdictions allow juvenile emancipation, where a minor who can prove that they are competent may take on some rights that are normally reserved for legal adults.
Not all such minor restrictions are necessarily tied to the same transitional age, but the transition from minor to adult is typically defined by the age at which one may independently enter into contracts. In the 20th century most countries have allowed all these transitions to occur by the age of 18, but some countries allow some adult rights at the age of 16, and others delay them until the age of 21.
Last updated: 02-07-2005 15:25:53