The overcrowded correction homes pose a problem at a time physical distancing is necessary to keep the coronavirus at bay

The growing number of juvenile delinquents in the country is a matter of worry, as is evident from the overcrowded correction homes across the nation.

According to a study conducted by Public Defender Society of Nepal and presented at a workshop the other day, altogether 917 juvenile delinquents were housed in the eight correction centres across the country, a big jump from the 735 children in 2020. In 2018-19, 821 children had been sent to juvenile correction centres, compared to only 380 children the previous fiscal, an increase by more than 115 per cent. In Nepal, a juvenile delinquent is someone under the age of 18 who has committed an act that would otherwise have been charged with a crime punishable by law if s/he were an adult. Instead of sending them to jail as per the court order, such minors are kept in a correction centres located in six of the seven provinces, except Karnali, at Bhaktapur, Morang, Kaski, Makwanpur, Parsa, Rupandehi, Banke and Doti.

According to the report, all of the correction centres were overcrowded, with them housing children far above the carrying capacity. For instance, Biratnagar Correction Home had 190 juvenile delinquents against a capacity for 50 children. The one at Rupandehi had 105 children, 45 more than it could house.

Previous studies had shown that the correction centres simply didn't have the facilities and the space to house a large number of children. Adequate space for both living and games, entertainment and extracurricular activities, both inside and outside, was sorely lacking.

Rather than a correction home, some are said to even represent a prison.

Although it is against the law, juvenile delinquents were taken to the court handcuffed like adult criminals. At many places, as many as 10 children were found sharing a room, with some having to share a bed, which is problematic at a time when physical distancing is a necessity to keep the coronavirus at bay. Due to problems of water supply, regular hand washing is also not feasible.

There are different reasons why juveniles commit a crime. School problems, economic problems, substance abuse, physical abuse at home and peer pressure are some of the reasons that could prompt children to break the law. Juvenile delinquents in Nepal have been found guilty of committing 15 types of offences, some of them of a very serious nature. They include rape, drug smuggling, even murder, and majority of the juvenile delinquents are in the 16-18 age cohort. That as many as 487 juvenile delinquents have been charged with rape, according to the new report, is a serious matter, and it calls for more study as to why this is happening. Could it be the influence of the internet, with children exposed to uncontrolled porn and other indecent materials from a very early age? There is a need for all the stakeholders – the government, civil society, the society at large and parents – to work together to bring juvenile delinquency under control. Also, the juvenile justice system is different from the adult criminal justice system and requires reform as per the Children's Act.

The focus of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate the child so that s/he does not relapse into crime.

Vaccine for travellers

As demanded by the foreign employment entrepreneurs and stakeholders, the government has started to inoculate Johnson & Johnson vaccines against COVID-19 for Nepalis travelling to foreign countries for jobs, education or other purposes.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine is administered in a single dose, and it saves a lot of time of the recipients.

Those who have been inoculated with this vaccine can leave the country within a few days after being vaccinated. Earlier, many people wishing to go abroad had to wait for a long time as they needed to get double doses of vaccines after a six-week gap.

The government has made arrangements for administering the U.S.-made vaccine from Chhaunibased Military Hospital, Nepal Police Hospital, Maharajgunj, Armed Police Hospital, Balambu and Teku Hospital. Around 500,000 doses of vaccines have been allocated for this purpose. Anyone who is in an emergency and has a ticket to leave the country within a few days will be given priority for the vaccination.

Others who are not in a hurry are advised to take double doses of vaccines of other brands. It is hoped that the government's decision to give a single dose of vaccine to outbound people will ease their travel.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 27, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.