Justice homes or juvenile hell holes?
By Sharadha Kalyanam | Published: 29th April 2013 09:32 AM |
Homes for juvenile offenders in the state may be the first resort for many boys and girls in conflict with the law and children in need of care and protection, but some of these shelters built to reorient these children have proved to be ‘hell holes.’
A report released by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) recently states that an overwhelming majority of cases of child rape and sexual assault are taking place within the confines of Juvenile Justice Homes set up under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000.
While a few of these homes are being run by the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD), many unregistered homes are being run by private groups. Of the 39 cases analysed from childrens’ homes across the country, 11 were reported from juvenile justice homes run or aided by the government. There was a case from Bangalore in which the offender was a member of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).
According to statistics, 1,089 children aged below 14 years belonging to the 34 children homes for boys and girls in Karnataka have gone missing since 2006. “These children go missing to escape ill treatment and abuse or become victims of trafficking,” states the report titled ‘India’s Hell Holes: Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes,’ which was recently submitted to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Rashida Manjoo.
Statistics available with the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) states that 719 children were raped in Karnataka between 2006 and 2011.
“Many of these rapes took place in juvenile homes, observation homes, special homes, or shelter homes set up under the JJ Act 2000,” said Suhas Chakma, Director, ACHR.
Most offenders lurk within these homes, the ACHR report further states that in case of the government-run juvenile justice homes, the offenders turned out to be caretakers, peons, cooks, class IV employees, security guards, wardens and other sub staff.
“The homes run by NGOs and other private charitable trusts had managers, owners, founders and their friends and in some cases, the abuse happens in collusion with the staff,” revealed the report.
Ashok Mathew Philip, Executive Director, South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), said that juvenile homes in the state need drastic reforms in recruiting its staff members.
“Observation homes are unprofessionally run in the state. There is no measure to check if the children are safe from the hands of anti-social elements,” he said.
Philip added that even if irregularities and complaints surface, no disciplinary action is taken. He felt that NGOs should be given access to these homes so that they can monitor them.
“But the moment advocacy groups raise an issue they are prohibited from entering. There is no civil society participation in monitoring these homes,” he said.
Where’s the System?
Meanwhile, the DWCD which is in charge of running and maintaining the homes for juvenile offenders, is suffering severe staff crunch.
Gurneet Tej, Director, DWCD, said that inspection committees were constituted in every district under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) over a year ago to check the functioning of these homes.
“The committee meetings happen every two months where inspectors take individual feedback from the children in these homes. However, systems in place continue to be minimal,” she said.