Author: Vibhuti Mittal
I Year | Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur
Costa Rica, officially known as the Republic of Costa Rica, is a small country in Central America. With San José as its capital. It has a population of five million (approx.) which consists of a highly educated workforce. The sovereign state of Costa Rica is a unitary presidential constitutional republic with a long-standing stable democracy.
It spends around 6.9% of its annual budget on education, as compared to the global average of 4.4%. The country ranks 62nd in the world in the Human Development Index (HDI). But why is this information relevant to us today? These facts about Costa Rica will help us do a critical analysis of Child rights in Costa Rica, with a special focus on the democratic setup.
Children in Costa Rica and Suffrage:
Children in Costa Rica can teach a lot about voting, even though they don’t vote. It is so because the younger generation is motivated to accompany their parents when they go to cast a vote. They conduct mock elections and voting practices in schools to make young minds understand the electoral process. Through this process, they try to instil in them the importance of voting.
Article 93 of the Constitution of Costa Rica lays down the right of suffrage for the citizens. It defines suffrage as “[a] primordial and obligatory civic function and is exercised before the Electoral Boards [Juntas] in a direct and secret vote, by the citizens registered in the Civil Registry.”
Electoral Practice in Costa Rica and Child Rights:
Costa Rica organizes the National Children’s election wherein children below the age of 18 years are to participate. In this process, they cast their symbolic vote for president. The votes of children don’t affect the official count, but it helps in strengthening the tenets of democracy in Costa Rica.
While the practice was started to curb voter absenteeism and develop an interest in children for voting since a young age, it has highly influenced the domain of child rights in Costa Rica. Children inculcate the importance of representation when given the right to vote, symbolically. It also instils in them the right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful dissent.
Intersection of Costa Rica Suffrage and UN Child Rights:
UN Human Rights Commission under its Convention on the Rights of the Child elaborates on the child rights and duties of the state. Article 13, 14 and 15 of the Convention  talk about these rights of children. By providing them with a right to vote, not only does the state fulfil its duty as mentioned in the Convention, but also enables children to learn about their rights through practical means.
In 2014, Costa Rica held its first electronic elections for the youth. Where the children aged six and above were encouraged to vote and “choose” the country’s next president. Thus, this practice is just a new tradition and not a law that is to be followed.
Real Right to Vote for Children:
This also questions the logic of barring people below 18 years of age from voting. Further, igniting the debate of giving young children an actual “right to vote”. If given the “right to vote” in its real sense, it will help in teaching children the importance of good governance and help them become contributing citizens in society.
To make the right to vote for children legally enforceable, a nation will have to alter its electoral process. The political parties too will have to adjust their agendas and make it more youth-centric. But unfortunately, this path has too many speed breakers, from scientific reasons to political barriers.
Child Rights in Costa Rica vis-à-vis India:
The main aim to commence this practice in Costa Rica was to curb voter absenteeism. Later, the practice became a tradition as it was successful in increasing the voter turn-out by a substantial percentage.
When compared to India, there is little chance for this practice to succeed. This is because of the difference in size, population, and political factors. The voter turn-out in the 2019 general assembly elections was an average of 67% and it was considered a historic turn-out. As per the data of the Election Commission of India, the reason behind fewer turnout is due to a lack of interest in political discourses.
Thus, the reasons are far away from concerns of child rights, which will make the practice unsuccessful in India. Though it might spark the discussion of democracy and the practice of voting among the children, it will have a negligible effect on voter turnout.
The practice of making young children symbolically vote had a major influence on child rights in Costa Rica. It makes them informed citizens and results in more engagement in political discourses, eventually leading to a healthier democracy. However, the same would not be successful in bigger democracies or with slightly different settings with respect to voter turn-out. This practice is highly successful in terms of the holistic growth of children. It also acts as a stepping stone to bringing a change in the age bar for voting.
 Political constitution of the Republic of Costa Rica chapter II SUFFRAGE Art. 93
 Andres Madrigal, In Costa Rica, kids learn at a young age the importance of voting, THE TICO TIMES (April 6, 2014) https://ticotimes.net/2014/04/06/photos-in-costa-rica-kids-learn-at-a-young-age-the-importance-of-voting
 2019 poll records highest-ever turnout of 67.47%, THE HINDU, (May 26, 2019 00:53) https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/2019-poll-records-the-highest-ever-turnout-of-6747/article27250281.ece
Editor: Anukriti Prakash