Khadija Khatun resorted to a provision of the Children Act of 2013 that allows law enforcers to release juvenile delinquents against an undertaking and guarantee that they would be taken care of and rehabilitated within their community.
Speaking at a meeting in Dhaka, Khadija Khatun said she then called the parents and representative of Jagrata Juba Sangha (JJS), an NGO that has taken up an initiative to turn around juvenile delinquents through a combination of measures that include obligatory community work, schooling and residence with family under Children Act 2013.
Khadija explained the matter to the boy’s parents who agreed that they would ensure their son behaves in future. The boy has been staying at home, back to regular school and has not been involved in further crime. “It seems to have worked out for the better.”
Khulna-based NGO, JJS, has so far brought back 147 children from police stations and 26 children from courts in Khulna and Jessore districts in between January 2015 to September 2016, who would have ended up in correctional facilities alongside hardened criminals.
Police officers at the discussion admitted that children have little hope of being ‘corrected’ at the facilities. “In fact they are likelier to come out more inclined towards criminal tendencies.”
The national level sharing meeting on ‘Diversion under Children Act 2013: Experience of Khulna-Jessore’ organised by JJS, funded by UNICEF, was held at AS Mahmud Conference Hall of Daily Star Building at Kawran Bazar in Dhaka.
Farzana Boby, sub-inspector of Sonadanga Model police station of Khulna, working at child affairs desk, said, “In the correction center, a child has to stay with serious crime convicts. Staying a long times with those convicts, it becomes a tough task for a child to correct himself in future life.”
For the first time, the Children Act 2013 allows police officers to release any accuse without taking to the court. The provision of the child act under 17 (iv) states, a child affairs police officer (CAPO) shall record the statement of the child in the presence of his or her the parents or, in their absence, foster carer or legal gurdian or members of his extended family, as the case may be, and the probation officer or the social worker.
The CAPO can release the child after giving a written or verbal warning in the presence of his parents or guardian. Such warning shall not be held as a record against the child. He may also avail diversionary measures in respect of the child, reads the child act provision.
The JJS is operating a project in Khulna and Jessore districts, financed by UNICEF, for the last two years that is ending this month. In the project, JJS works with Judiciary, police department, social service department, community based child protection committee (CBCPC) under local government bodies, children, parents and civil society.
While presenting a project description, JJS executive director ATM Zakir Hossain, said, “We try to build a strong coordination by holding meetings with judiciary, police and other functional bodies to ensure that diversion of a child can take place in any stage from arrest to final disposition.”
Zakir also said our main theme is a child doing a petty offense once is not a criminal. The child can be changed, everyone needs a second chance.
Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif of High Court was the chief guest at the national level experience-sharing meeting while Naseen Begum, additional secretary of legislative and parliamentary affairs division of law ministry, Dr Khandakar Mahid Uddin, additional DIG of police, and Jean Lieby, chief of child protection section of UNICEF Bangladesh were present as special guests. Among others, Monjurul Imam, judge of additional district and session court of Jessore and Dilruba Sultana, judge additional metropolitan session judge of Khulna also spoke at the meeting.
Justice Hassan said if the field-level officials go in right direction, only then we would get a positive outcome from the Children Act. There are some limitations and barriers, which we are trying to address. But still we need to work for the betterment of child future.