Ball in a new court

The government, with its commitment to address child rights under the Juvenile Justice Working Procedure Regulation, 2063, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, is all set to operate juvenile benches in 12 district courts of Ilam, Makwanpur, Morang, Saptari, Rupandehi, Kanchanpur, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kaski, Banke and Surkhet. Each of these courts will be equipped with in-camera hearing facilities, a child psychologist and a professional social worker who will prioritise the cases and provide assistance. Likewise, police stations are soon expected to have a separate place for the detention of juvenile offenders for up to 24 hours, while juvenile officers trained in international and domestic standards will administer justice.

Nepal, a signatory to the child rights convention, has not been able to follow it in its letter and spirit. It provides for the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child as a last resort and for the shortest period possible. Contrarily, some of the juvenile delinquents are being detained for long periods on flimsy charges. Moreover, some are not getting humane treatment or separated from adults in detention. A study found 405 children living alongside criminals at various police stations, correction centres and prisons. Innocent children have been found languishing in jails and made to atone for their parents’ crimes. Often, juvenile delinquents’ right to maintain contact with their families and have access to legal remedy has been denied. Worse still, 161 juveniles remain in jail without charge. The rights of children in detention should be secured at all costs.