Child Abduction and Kidnappings

last updated March 2015

In partnership with UN Women, The Advocates for Human Rights created the following sections for UN Women's Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls. This section, along with sections addressing other forms of violence against women and girls, may be found under Legislation at

Child Abduction and Kidnapping

Legislation should criminalize the wrongful removal of a child from his biological mother/widow upon her husband’s death. Legislation should criminalize the harmful practice where a deceased’s relatives remove a widow’s children from her care. Provisions on child abduction, kidnapping, interference with family relations, or other conduct concerning a child, should explicitly prohibit this practice. Drafters should ensure that such criminal laws supersede customary laws and practices that presume the charge and custody of the children is with the patrilineal relatives, not the biological mother.

Criminal legislation should reference civil laws stating that removal of the child from the parent is wrongful unless a determination is made in accordance with law and procedures by a competent authority that the child’s best interests dictate so, subject to judicial review by a recognized court of law. Drafters should ensure legislation compels the immediate return of a child wrongfully removed from the mother. Legislation should allow a judge to issue a criminal no contact order against the abductors where a judicial determination has found it to be in the best interests of the child.