By Aliana Rodrigues
Childhood is a period of laughter and joy. Every person needs a healthy and fulfilling childhood in order to succeed in life. But sadly, this is not the case with everyone. Every child does not get a stress-free and privileged upbringing. For a balanced childhood one requires the nurturing of both parents and the love and attention of those around.
Sometimes, children are brought up in harsh conditions which leads them to crime as they do not know any other way of life. It is shocking to note the number of cases in which children are found to be involved in heinous crimes. These acts are committed on their own accord or perhaps due to pressure of forces beyond their control.
Children under the age of eighteen who have committed crimes are regarded as juveniles and are subject to court trials different from those of adults.
Why do children commit crimes?
Children commit crimes for various reasons and factors. The family and environment in which the child is brought up plays an important role in determining a child’s behaviour.
For example, some children are taught to steal, cheat, lie and kill from a young age, possibly because the family is less privileged. Some live a life of poverty and take to crime as a means to survival. Some are neglected by their loved ones and carryout unlawful activity to draw attention to themselves. Some others have a poor educational background and some are forced to commit crimes by adults who exploit them for their own ends.
Friend and peer groups also influence a child’s behaviour. Adolescents often display rebellious behaviour as at that age they go through a number of problems such as identity crisis, substance abuse, peer pressure, etc, and may thus indulge in criminal activities in order to gain in popularity in the friend circle or to gain the respect of their friends. Adolescents often experience emotional upheavals which are beyond their control and such children display increased anti-social and aggressive behaviour.
Most legal systems prescribe specific procedures for dealing with juveniles, such as juvenile detention centres, and courts. Depending on the type and severity of the offense committed, it is possible for persons under 18 to be charged and tried as adults.
The media also controls certain aspects of a child’s development. Children often mimic or imitate behaviour witnessed in movies, advertisements, television shows, music videos, etc. which may lead to violence. Adolescents enjoy the thrill of conducting themselves in a bad manner and enjoy asserting dominance over those younger and weaker than themselves.
Crimes committed by children vary. Most children commit crimes ranging from petty offenses such as begging, truancy and theft to burglary, substance and alcohol abuse, rape, assault etc. It is disheartening and appalling to note that the numbers of cases involving children are increasing.
Early intervention and prevention is the key to reducing crime. This involves imparting education to all children so they learn basic moral values as well as valuable skills. Teachers and counsellors should provide guidance to troubled students. Sitting down with the child, talking about major issues and empathising with them goes a long way in reducing aggressive tendencies. Children should be made to feel wanted, accepted and recognised as contributors to society. Parents and other adults can act as role models in the lives of children by attending to them, providing guidance and motivation as well as bringing them up to be respectable members of society.
Awarding the offender appropriate punishment as well as providing proper treatment and counselling can deter perpetrators from committing further crimes. The government needs to implement harsher laws as well as establish counselling centres so that children are made aware of the consequences of their actions. There is a lot of debate as to whether a child under eighteen should be tried in courts as an adult or not. Children below the age of eighteen have a developing mind and at this stage are not yet aware of the ways in which they are expected to behave. Those who are eighteen and above are generally more mature and aware of the rules and regulations. It is crucial to understand the child’s point of view and the reason for his/her actions. In order to reduce crime rates among children in the country, it is necessary for all residents to act purposefully. By mutual co-operation between the child and adult, child crime rates would diminish by a large proportion.
By doing so, we can guarantee that “Crime free children of today” will ensure a “Crime free India of tomorrow.”
(The writer is a student of standard XII, St Xavier’s Higher Secondary School)
Crime free children of today for a crime free India tomorrow
By Aliana Rodrigues