A 22-year-old medical intern was beaten, gang-raped, and tortured in a private bus in Delhi in 2012. The rapists made the damage so brutally in her body that even the doctors at the hospital opined that they never saw such shredded body before. The doctors got perplexed thinking from where to start their treatment. The victim died in the hospital. Among the six rapists four were hanged to death and one committed suicide. A 17-year-old juvenile was one among the rapists. Since, he was minor, he was sent to correction home.
Despite massive public outcry, he was released in 2015 after completing three years at the correction home. The discussion was ignited in India if the age of punishment should be lowered to 16 since this could discourage the minors for committing crime.
If we try to dig down the core causes of child crime, evidence shed light on different factors. If children miss a lot of school days, they cannot learn the values or moral behavior. Witnessing abuse and going through abuse increases the risk of juvenile delinquency. When children are beaten, assaulted or abused, the depression may cause them involving in crime. Besides, if the basic needs of children are not met, usually there remains a higher chance of being engaged in criminal activities. Another important root cause behind juvenile crimes is peer pressure. In order to feel accepted by their friends and peers, juveniles might get engaged in illegal activities quickly.
All over the world, the juvenile justice system is different than the adult one. Because, the decision making process of children is not fully developed. Evidence shows that in many cases the guilty juveniles overcame the crime and were successfully living a crime-free life subsequently. Thus they require different strategies for correction. Besides, keeping juveniles with adult criminals increases their exposure to sexual and physical violence. On the other hand, rehabilitation is expected to ensure education, psychological counseling and treatment to overcome negative addiction for the juveniles.
International Criminal Court also protects rights of juveniles. Article 26 states: “The Court shall have no jurisdiction over any person who was under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged commission of a crime.”
In Bangladesh, about five hundred juvenile crime cases are reported every year. Many remain unreported. Even this rate is showing an alarmingly increasing trend. Since juveniles are not punished, many adult criminals take advantage of this by using them for criminal activities. To prevent such a trend, government of Bangladesh is considering reducing the age of children from 18 years. The core idea is to establish the culture of fear so that juveniles feel de-motivated to be engaged in crime. However, following the modern trend the world is coming out from the concept of stigmatizing the bad children. The ultimate purpose is correcting the evil in the child, not punishing the child.
Bangladesh is also going through a period of changing traditional value system. Thus, government of Bangladesh also showed their solidarities for establishing a fearless culture for children. In 2010, they banned corporal punishment in all educational institutions for children.
In Canada where the crime rate is very low ensures three types of strategies for the youth juveniles in the correction center. They adopt different approaches for maximum security, minimum security and multiple securities for the juveniles based on their crime and behavioral pattern.
In Bangladesh, the number of juvenile development centers is not adequate. Moreover, they are rather informally termed as “torture cell”. In 2020, three children were killed and fifteen were injured in Jessore Juvenile Development Center. At the same time, there is no proper counseling and correctional measures at these Juvenile Development Centers in Bangladesh.
Thus, for proper rehabilitation of the juveniles; numbers, capacities and facilities of the juvenile centers should be enhanced. To prevent juvenile crimes, access to basic needs and protection should be ensured for all the children. There should be a platform where juveniles can exchange their views and develop their leadership to serve the communities. Counseling support should be accessible for any child or juvenile to recover their mental health issues.
Another notable aspect is that there should be specific and uniform definition of juvenile delinquency which is not the same in different laws and policies of Bangladesh. Finally, law and orders should be enforced such a way that no criminals have the chance to escape. Juveniles under the age of 18 should be treated differently and given the chance to get back to normal life.
The writer is the Manager-Strategy,
Innovation and Research, World Vision Bangladesh