Health, Opinion

Delinquency and Juvenile Justice System in Pakistan

Juvenile delinquency is a problem currently affecting the population and societies round the globe. Understanding the juvenile delinquency is important for the masses in order to know what really it is and how to react to it.

A widespread, continuous and chronic behavior by a psychologically identified deviant group, threatening general well being of society, is termed as antisocial behavior. Antisocial personality is thus an individual with traits which consequently prohibits him performing as normal being in a society. Juvenile delinquency, also known as juvenile offending is actually a bio-psycho-social phenomenon.

Legally speaking, the definition differs cross countries. European Union terms a child  as delinquent if his breach of penal code affects society in general, while in USA, a minor can be accused to be delinquent if he shows antisocial behaviors, like consumption of drugs, disobedience of parents and smoking in institutions etc.

Hence juvenile delinquency is a minor’s participation in committing a crime before the statutory age of maturity. Statutory age of maturity again, differs from country to country and even region to region within a single country.

Causes of juvenile delinquency can be rooted to the aspects of economic, social and biological situations of society and individuals. Poor economy, increased rate of inflation, lack of jobs and scarcity of basic necessities can be a cause of deviant behavior in children.

On the other hand, psychological stresses, conflicts between parents, single parenthood, bad school environment and teacher’s torture may also induce delinquency in child. Additionally, the raised level of serotonin in brain has been proved a major cause of juvenile recidivism among minors.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is among countries where child delinquency rate is relatively high. What make the situation more critical is that out of Pakistan’s population of 200 million, half or about 49% are under the age of 18. Among them, 22% are adolescents of age 10-18.

More than four million children are engaged in child labor according to an estimate. Which means, such a high number of children are susceptible to being exploited and are at risk of being delinquent.

Surprisingly, Pakistan lacks a clear cut difference line between juvenile criminals and adult culprits, in practice. Fundamental difference between juvenile justice system and criminal justice system is that the earlier system rehabilitates delinquents and the later is a system of retribution against adult criminals.

Juvenile crimes are relatively high in urban areas, particularly in Lahore and Karachi because of amalgam of different economy classes which consequently increases class conflict. Poorest to richest difference urges will of crime committing among youngsters.

Following CRC in 1990, government of Pakistan promulgated the “Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, (JJSO 2000),” This was provided for the protection of juveniles involved in criminal litigations. It was proved a step forward and promulgated immediately. The statuary age in Pakistan is furnished as seven to twelve.

Juvenile between age 7-12 lies responsible if he/she realizes what he/she has committed, otherwise up till 12 minor falls under the category of juveniles. Contrarily, Hadood Ordinance establishes separate age of maturity for men and women, i-e 16 for females and 18 for males.

Additionally, it also refers an individual as mature if he/she reached to age of puberty. Under the Hadood Ordinance, juveniles were sentenced to capital punishments even of the age below twelve. On the other hand, according to “society for the protection of rights of the child, (SPARC)” in PATA and FATA where there are no normal courts, juveniles are not treated under JJSO 2000.

Moreover, in Pakistan juveniles are reported to be harassed by police officers. Still there are no rehabilitation centers established separately for delinquents. Though in Karachi and Lahore some reforms are introduced but its need of hour to spread them to all districts. Juvenile offenders are even kept with adult criminals. Researches showed that delinquents if accompanied adult offenders, repeat crime litigation after release.

Along with governmental reforms, as an individual of society it’s our social responsibility to work for the welfare and rehabilitation of these juvenile delinquents. There must be campaigns to make masses aware about the delinquency and the ways how to react it. Parents, teachers, and all responsible must be informed and furnished clear-cut concept of juvenile delinquency and factors causing criminal recidivism.