Punishing juveniles may be detrimental to their future: Activist

Punishing juveniles may be detrimental to their future: Activist

One-day workshop on atrocities against women held

Several legal issues regarding juvenile offenders that were highlighted following the Nirbhaya rape incident in Delhi, was discussed at length at a session on ‘Rape: Law and Age’, at Kuvempu Kannada Adhyayana Samsthe, here on Friday. 

While some experts were pro-punishment for juveniles, who were involved in acts of grievous bodily harm, the others felt a need to investigate factors that result in juvenile offences, maintaining that the juveniles too were “victims” of negligence by parents and society.

The discussion was part of a one day workshop on ‘Atrocities on women: Gender-Law- Resistance’, organised as part of the 108th Womens day celebrations, by the Samsthe and Karnataka Mahila Dourjanya Virodhi Okkoota.

Writer and Advocate, Banu Mushtaq was of the view that the “mental and physical ability” of a juvenile, who has been accused of the crime, must also be considered before a court sentences him/her for the crime.

Offences by juveniles is on the rise, she said, quoting instances of Nirbhaya rape incident and Shakti Mill rape incident, wherein one of the accused was a juvenile in both the incidents. She argued that in such cases, juveniles must be punished, irrespective of the age.

“When a juvenile commits a heinous crime, as in the case of Nirbhaya, he receives a maximum sentence of three years. A suo motu revision petition, regarding revision to the age of juveniles in the case of such crimes, has now been taken up in the Supreme Court. 

Apart from this, the Child and Social Welfare Department is also contemplating of reducing the age of juveniles, as below 16,” she said.

She was of the view that juveniles could be hired by vested elements to commit grievous acts, with the full knowledge that the accused will be acquitted within three years, owing to their juvenility, during the act.

Shakun, an activist from Vimochana and Mallige of Samanatha Mahila Vedike, were of the opinion that stringent laws and punishment alone cannot be a solution to prevent juvenile offenders from committing such crimes. “There are not enough studies done in the country, regarding the affect of punishment on a juvenile. 

However, studies conducted in other countries have found that punishment for juveniles might be detrimental to the future of juveniles,” Shakun said.

Mallige, referring to the National Crime Records Bureau report of 2012, said that the report found a 45 per cent increase in the number of rapes by juveniles. “We must question why juveniles are prone to commit such acts of crime.

What social structures exist to prevent juveniles, who are orphans and without guardians, so that they are not encouraged towards crime?” she questioned. She said that rapes were affected by several socio-economic factors, among which increasing addiction of juveniles to alcohol was one, she said.

P P Baburaj, district Juvenile Justice Board member said that rather than having a drastic view regarding juvenile offenders, the juveniles must be treated as “victims” of the system. 

“They are the victims of negligence by their parents and an apathetic society,” she said. He also blamed the growing influence of pornographic content among children, as one of the causes for the rise in sexual offences by juveniles. “Fundamentally, since children grow up in a patriarchal society, they imbibe all ills of the same,” he said.