Juvenile means a person who is very young, teenager, adolescent or underage. In other words, juvenile means children who have not yet reached the age of adults in the sense that they are still childish or immature. Sometimes the term “child” is also interchangeably used for the term “juvenile”.
Legally speaking, a juvenile can be defined as a child who has not attained a certain age at which he can be held liable for his criminal acts like an adult person under the law of the country. A juvenile delinquent/criminal is a child who is alleged to have committed certain acts or omissions which are in violation of any law and are declared to be an offence.
In terms of law, a juvenile is a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years. It has a legal significance. As per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000, a juvenile shall not be treated as an adult even if he/she is involved in any criminal acts for the purpose of trial and punishment in the court of law.
However, data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that in 2016 among all the juveniles arrested only 3.5 per cent were homeless. The remaining 86 per cent or 38,061 out of 44,171 of the minors apprehended for crime lived with their parents. Also it was found that those arrested were 16 years or more of age and only 45 per cent of them had completed primary school but not class X. Also 12.25 per cent of them were illiterate and 9.6 per cent of them had a high school education.
Crime by juveniles is a harsh reality in India. In recent times juveniles were found to be involved in most heinous of the crimes such as murder and gang rape. A minor raped another minor child.
Some minors were arrested for drunk driving and running over a pedestrian. Minors from well to do homes gang rape their class fellow—such stories are often heard of or read in the newspapers these days. It is a disturbing trend in the society and we are all anguished by such criminal acts by children.
We see young homeless boys selling balloons on the pavements of Rajpur Road. They are rude and abusive if you refuse to buy their balloons or give them some money. These are the homeless groups of children who are adopted by well-meaning NGOs or other organisations -but let off on the streets to fend for themselves. They may turn to be the future criminals or drug peddlers if we do not take care of them now. It’s a wake-up call for all of us.
Many experts believe that the present law is inadequate to deal with the situation today and we need changes in it so that for heinous crimes juveniles may also be tried and punished as adults. They say that because they are let off with lesser punishment, therefore such crimes are on the rise.
But there are views in opposition to this as well. However, punishments –strict or hard will not solve this problem which is contaminating and spreading like cancer in the society today. We need to go to the root cause of the problem. Why are our children straying away in to crime? One of the major reasons is bad parenting and lack of bonding and healthy communication between the parents and children today—due to a variety of reasons.
Rising divorce cases of parents are also leading to development of insecure children. Dysfunctional families where both the parents are working to meet their social and financial needs and hence have little time for the children are another factor. The nuclear family structure so prevalent now—where children are left with their mobiles and domestic helps—to fend for themselves do not help.
Challenges at schools and colleges may also lead to various psychological problems in children like low self-esteem and depression. Lack of adequate coping skills in the children to meet these challenges adaptively and atmosphere of more competition at home and in school which leads to less friendship and trust also boost situations that may abet juvenile delinquency. Lack of emotional ability skills in both parents and children, peer pressure anger, addiction to mobile phones, television and pornography, other addictions like drugs and alcohol, lack of good role models for children and lack of knowledge of the importance counselling at the right time- all these factors may contribute to juvenile delinquency. The problems are manifold though the solution is simple. The parents need to wake up and set their priorities right. Take counselling help before the situation goes overboard. Communicate, don’t argue with the children, tell them what is right and what is wrong.
Explain to them the difference between reel and real, educate yourself to the telltale signs of when the child goes astray. Give quality time to the children, be stress free and good role models. The parents also need to keep an eye on their children’s school work—do not leave all to tuition.
Also, keep an eye on their friends and screen time or mobile phone or internet time. Talk to them consistently. The parents should let their children know that they are their best friends. Last but not the least, boost their self esteem- tell them you love them.
(The author is a neuro psychologist and CBSE designated counsellor)
Monday, 24 June 2019 | Dr Sona Kaushal Gupta | in Guest Column