Children in juvenile justice homes in India, who suffer from diseases like leprosy, Hepatitis B, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases, will no longer be segregated from other healthier children. That is, if Parliament approves a bill that Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath is scheduled to introduce in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
The bill Tirath is scheduled to table seeks to amend provisions of the original Juvenile Justice Act, which was passed in the year 2000, which allowed the government to segregate children suffering from these diseases.
In 2008, a group of Parliamentarians had approached the Rajya Committee on Petitions asking for deletion of the original clauses in the Act, which facilitated the segregation. The committee tabled its report in the matter in October 2008. In February 2009, the Delhi High Court also asked the government to look into the issue after the Kusht Ashadeep Federation appealed against the stigmatisation of children afflicted by leprosy.
The deletion of these clauses does not mean that children with these diseases will not receive treatment. It merely means that they will not be kept isolated from other children while in a juvenile justice home and will still be sent to hospital for treatment of illness.
A senior government official said that during the review of this clause, the WCD ministry had come to the conclusion that infectious character of leprosy is now rendered low with the first few doses of medication.
“We were not segregating children in any event, but we agreed that it is time we removed even a clause that facilitated that,” an official told Hindustan Times.
The only category of children in juvenile justice homes that can still be segregated till they are transferred to a medical facility for treatment will now be those who are habitual drug abusers, alcohol abusers, substance abusers and those who are suffering from psychiatric ailments.
“These children may be segregated in a need-based fashion for their own protection, if the situation warrants it,” a senior official said. That, however, will be for a short while till those children are transferred to a detoxification centre or psychiatric hospital for treatment.