I salute the Child Justice System in our dear nation. It is mainly focused on diversionary measures. It is commendable as it is restorative in nature. It restores the child offender and gives him another chance. It is in accordance with international principle.
Having studied the diversionary system of the child justice system, I am burdened to pick a big hole. The hole is not in the workability or effectiveness of the diversionary measure, but in the environment in which the measures are being applied.
I do not think a society, which has not prepared an enabling environment for the child to develop has the moral justification to subject the child to any kind of disciplinary measure, diversionary or otherwise.
The child is always a product of his environment. He is not self made. By the time the child becomes irresponsible, the root is found in the custodians. It is like the case of a masquerade, who is dancing on the road with his drummers hidden in the nearby bush. That we do not see the drummers does not mean that they are not formidable in determining the dance steps of the masquerade. If we want the masquerade to stop dancing, it is important we locate the drummers.
What our child justice system does most of the time is to pick up the masquerade, while they leave the drummers to continue their drumming until they attract another masquerade.
When a child is in conflict with the law, we should be interested in the journey that took him to that point. The rehabilitative measure must also take into consideration the roles of the custodian. It is not enough to only involve the custodians in the process of diversion; they must answer very important questions on how the child slipped out of their hands.
Considering the nature of the child’s conflict with the law, we must also trace the roles of the state. It is the responsibility of the state to provide social support services to the child and his custodians. The social services provided to the child are to aid his development. While the ones provided for the parents are to help the parents to play their roles as parents.
I have kept saying, for example that the children on the street are not children in conflict with the law. They may have the potential to be in conflict with the law but they are not in conflict with the law by virtue of the fact that they are on the street. Children on the street are victims of failures of families and the state in which the family live.
When a child offender is apprehended, he is labelled a child in conflict with law and made to face the music of diversionary measures under the child justice system.
It is my final conclusion that subjecting the child to the dictates of the child justice system does not mean our laws would have been justified, as it is not designed to consider the circumstances under which a child commits or is made to commit a crime. Our law often painfully forgets that ‘the society creates the crime and the criminal commits it.’ I think this should be left as a fresh discussion for another day.
If our Child Justice looks beyond the child to address the issue of children getting into conflict with the law, we will be on the path to improve our child justice system to be in the best interest of the child and by extension in the best interest of our society.
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