As soon as a child is born, they obtain a legal personality. They are given an identity which includes a name, place and time of birth and affiliation to someone who can either be a parent or a guardian. Legal personality is what allows someone to enjoy civil rights. This is according to article 9 of the Nº32/2016 of 28/08/2016 the law governing persons and family.
However, even if a child is not yet born but he/she has been conceived in his/her mother’s womb, according to article 10 of the law governing persons and family, that child has civil rights.
Article 11 of the law governing persons and family says that every person is free to exercise civil rights. Even foreigners who live in Rwanda enjoy the same rights as citizens except if the law states otherwise. This is because there are some rights and privileges which are only reserved for Rwandan citizens.
Article 12 of the law governing persons and family further explains: “Every person, whether a Rwandan or a foreigner, has the capacity to exercise his/her civil rights except where the law provides for representation or assistance.”
Representation or assistance is sometimes required by children in doing certain things which are to be done only when someone has transitioned into adulthood. For example, if a child wants to buy land, they will need representation or assistance because it requires signing an agreement.
In order to exercise civil rights, one must do so under his/her legal name. This is the name that has been assigned in the birth record.
It is expected that in exercising civil rights, no one will abuse them, be excessive or inflict harm upon another person. Any person who goes against the limits is not protected by the law. In fact, article 13 of the law governing persons and family says: “Every person is bound to exercise his/her civil rights recognized by law and perform his/her obligations in good faith.”
It is assumed in making laws that every person will practice “good faith” which means that they will respect the rights of other people. Article 13 of the law governing persons and family further says that in every circumstance, one is expected to exercise diligence otherwise, one cannot claim to have exercised one’s right in good faith.
The enjoyment of civil rights, which starts when someone is conceived, ends when someone is dead or has disappeared or has been declared dead by judgment. According to article 14 of the law governing persons and family, this is when one’s legal personality is terminated.