Bhopal: Experts feel lowering age will seize chance of children to reform

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Nov 12, 2014 15:50 IST

She was just 16 when she was found guilty of kidnapping a 12-year-old girl and selling her for commercial sex work. A victim of trafficking herself, 20-year-old Seema (name changed) has now come a long way.

Journeying through the country's juvenile justice system and with the support from the juvenile justice team and government officials, she has regained her lost confidence and is looking forward to living a normal life with her family. Nobody talks about her past anymore in her family and all that matters is her future.

Another teenager, Shyam (name changed) was 17 when he raped his seven-year-old neighbour Savita (name changed). She lived in the room next door and would often come to his home to watch television. The incident happened one day when he found himself alone at home with her. He deeply regretted his actions and never fathomed he could do such a thing.

During counselling, he shared that from the age of eleven he used to join older boys in the neighbourhood to watch pornography during their spare time. Conversations among boys in his school were mostly about sexual fantasies.

He spent time in the special home for child offenders and was brought back to his family following the stay period. He has now sought readmission in the school and is currently studying in Class 12. Though he finished his counselling sessions, he continues to be in touch with the NGO and wants to help other people who suffered like him.

These are some of the cases shared during state-level consultation programme on Juvenile Justice Bill-2014. The motive of sharing these case studies was to make policy makers aware that if the age of trial will be lowered from 18 years to 16, the teenagers like Seema and Shyam will not get an opportunity to normalise their lives.

"The Juvenile Justice Bill 2014 allows children between 16 to 18 years alleged to have committed heinous offences to be tried and sentenced as adults. We feel this should not be done as it will snatch an opportunity to reform from such children who got involved in unknowingly in crime," said director of policy, research, advocacy and documentation CRY, Komal Ganotra. She said there were several examples of children committing crime improved their lives after counselling and support.

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