What should the court do if they come across a case where a group of boys below the age of 18 rape a girl and the evidence provided is beyond a reason of doubt? Should they be given strict sentencing or as in most cases, since the act was committed by a juvenile, let them off the hook once they turn 18? Just today in Times of India it was reported a girl just over 4 years old was sexually abused allegedly by senior students inside the school premises in Kozhikode Kerala. What would have prompted to commit this dastardly crime is beyond the comprehension of most civilized people. But the most disappointing and sad thing I could understand was the school authorities offering to hush up this whole incident by paying off the parents to protect their reputation. But that is beside the point and the question remains what motivated these boys to commit such heinous crime against an innocent and defenseless little girl. As a mother to two young daughters this news is no less than a recurring nightmare for me or any parent.
In the last few years, we have witnessed a very high number of cases where juvenile crime has risen. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveal that from 2002 to 2012, there has been a 143 per cent increase in the number of rapes by juveniles and murders committed by minors went up by 87 per cent. This sudden surge in such cases is baffling to most of us.
Is it because the laws are not very strict and the underage delinquents know if they commit any crime spanning rape, murder to violent burglary, they will not spend too much time in prison. Is the loophole being exploited? Or our society has denigrated to a level previously unknown? Whatever the reason may be, this problem of teenage boys committing some of the most heinous crimes has reached epic proportion. But then the question is, should there be tougher laws to prosecute minors? Spend money on rehabilitation program? So many ideas and suggestion, but no solution in sight.
If a politician tries to suggest that we must pass a law for tougher punishment for juveniles who commit serious crime like rape, murder and burglary, then the liberals and the Non-Government Organizations (NGO) will call this a draconian step. On the other hand, how do we go about rehabilitating them? Most of the crimes committed are in the cities and many of them come from impoverished and tough neighborhood, where from a very early age one has to fend for themselves and have to be street smart. Places like these make a person grow up very fast but sadly the emotional growth takes a back seat and the qualities like empathy and compassion which one hopes to install in one’schildren never takes root. Plus most of the juvenile detention facilities do not rehabilitate but end up desensitizing them and making them more violent.
This does not mean all the crimes committed by juveniles are always from bad neighborhoods; many a times the boys come from a well off family. Rape does not always mean forcing a girl for sex, what happens when a boy makes an MMS clip of having consensual sex with his girlfriend and post it on the internet. Boys stealing for pocket money to maintain a colorful lifestyle. To add to this problem the lack of sex education is also not helping the cause with many politicians apposing because of their backward thinking.
This problem has reached a viral crescendo and the laws to deal with these problems are just not right and need to be changed. If money and time should be spent in rehabilitation then, at times, tougher sentences will also have to be carried out. I am not suggesting trying a minor as an adult like they do in the United States and put them on death row. But to simply release a person from prison when they turn 18 is just not the answer because at times it feels that when an underage person commits a serious crime, he is already under the impression that he would not face serious charges and will be out and about when he turns 18. If that will be the attitude, then it is a clear violation and misuse of the law.
Our society is fast changing and the needs are also growing along with it. Small children are not hesitating to steal a woman’s purse, chain snatching or steal someone’s mobile phone for a quick buck and in the process end up seriously hurting someone or worse kill them. This is a problem which has reached a level where we might have to either find sensible laws to help solve this problem or not in a distant future we may have to create draconian laws which will only exacerbate this illness further.