Remissness Towards Juvenile Rights
The guiding principles set out this year by UNICEF state that,
“Children’s rights are human rights for children.”
The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is an international legal agreement (or ‘treaty’) that recognizes specific rights of children.
‘Rights’ are entitlements every child should have, all children have the same rights that are listed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and almost every country has agreed to respect them in practice. All these rights are connected and all are equally important — they cannot be taken away from children.
Children have the right to:
(e.g. from violence, exploitation and harmful substances).
(e.g. to be heard and taken seriously, and to join organizations).
(e.g. for education, health care and an adequate standard of living).
- Specific protection and provisions
(e.g. in case they are of part of a vulnerable population, such as indigenous children and children with disabilities).
The Convention on the Rights of the Child 2017 sets out these rights in 54 articles.
Article 37 describes the rights of child offenders:
“Children who break the law should not be killed, tortured, treated cruelly, put in prison forever, or put in prison with adults. Prison should be the last choice and only for the shortest possible time. Children in prison should have legal help and be able to stay in contact with their family.”
Article 40 of the Convention further emphasizes for a child offender to be able to access to legal help:
“Children have the right to legal help and fair treatment in a justice system that respects their rights.”
According to Articles 37 and 40, the juvenile/ child offender must not be put in prison for a long time nor must he or she be put in a prison with adults. The juveniles must also be provided with legal help. They must be treated fairly.
A “juvenile” is often defined as a person who is not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts.
According to Pakistan’s Juvenile Justice System Act 2017,
“Juvenile means a child who may be dealt with for an offence in a manner which is different from an adult.”
In criminal law, a minor may be referred to as a juvenile. The terms “child” and “juvenile” are often used interchangeably.
Laws Dealing With Juvenile Matters
The Pakistan Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, Juvenile Justice System Act and the Probation of Offenders Ordinance are relevant laws that deal with the matters of juvenile offenders.
A court of law responsible for the trial or legal supervision of children under a specified age is referred to as the juvenile court.
Condition of Juveniles in Pakistan
In Pakistan, children are involved in almost all kinds of crimes ranging from murder to petty theft. Many children are used for drug trafficking as well. Moreover, children are also being used for suicide attacks.
As far as the condition of our prisons is concerned, it is very sad to say that we don’t have separate prisons for minor offenders due to which children are kept in regular jails.
We do have a law now according to which the court can punish a juvenile in a different way than the existing regular one. The juvenile must be sent to a rehabilitation center or welfare center to work for some time as a form of punishment.
Juveniles in rehabilitation centers can be trained about different skills and their energies can be used towards something constructive so that when they are released from the rehabilitation center they can earn their livelihood in a skillful manner and become respectful citizens.
According Article 37(C) of the CRC,
“Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect.”
It has been around 17 years since the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance was originally enacted, but it still awaits implementation while underage law offenders continue to be treated like grown-up criminals, which is against the provisions of law.
These offenders require special treatment which is different from the one received by adult criminals, so as to give them a chance to go back to normal life.
The government is also required to provide free legal assistance to juvenile offenders. Moreover, it should establish a juvenile court in each district.
Now is the time for immediate implementation of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, keeping in mind the constitutional rights of every child.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which she might be associated.