Tamil Nadu

Child rights activists want underlying problems in government homes to be addressed

In the wake of inmates of a Government Observation Home in Madurai vandalising the home child rights experts say there is an urgent need to address the larger, underlying problems behind such incidents. Meanwhile, staff of different observation homes want support from parents and the society to bring about a change in the children.

A few days ago, a group of 18 inmates of a government observation home in Kamaraj Salai, Teppakulam, vandalised property including a television, computer and benches when they staged a violent protest reportedly demanding bail. After inspection by a Judicial Magistrate, the inmates were transferred to Vellore, Trichy and Tirunelveli observation homes .

The incident reveals a deeper problem in the system, experts say. As per the Juvenile Justice Act, all children are entitled to bail immediately. “When the children are denied bail for a long time and kept at the home, they get frustrated. Either the social work members of the Juvenile Justice Board or the staff of the home should sit down and explain to them why their bail is being denied and when the next hearing would be. Besides shifting them to other homes, especially during a pandemic, without addressing the root problems, will not serve any purpose,” said a child rights practitioner.

Girija Kumara Babu, a child rights activist, said that usually bail is denied in the interest of the child. One reason is considering their safety, the other is to prevent them falling into the hands of adult gang members who are still at large and another is to ensure that children do not go back to the same environment which had a negative influence on them.

“Otherwise they cannot be denied bail, especially during COVID-19 pandemic. And whenever bail is denied, the reason should be explained to the child and every stage of the case should be informed to him/her -- this is what it means to be child friendly. Besides, there is a need to segregate children in conflict with law based on the offence. If first-time offenders and those involved in heinous crimes are kept together, it will lead to problems,” she said.

Another child rights activist said that the staff of the observation home should keep a close watch on the behaviour of the inmates and simmering dissatisfaction should be identified at an early stage so that some corrective measures can be taken to address their grievances. “Nobody likes to be under detention -- if their relationship with the home staff is not conducive, it will lead to rebellions,” the activist added.

Geetha Ramaseshan, a senior advocate who has worked extensively in the realm of child rights said that more steps should be taken to channelise the energy of the inmates. “They will be frustrated and they should be kept engaged. Besides, it is important to segregate the children,” she reiterated.

Jim Jesudoss, child rights practitioner, said that most of the inmates are adolescents and they need psychological attention. “They will have an underlying sense of rejection, but will not express it. A therapeutic approach should be taken to address this and this can be done by spending quality time with each inmate,” he added.

Staff from several observation homes said that they need the support of parents and the society to being about a change in the children. “We mould them during their stay in the observation home and send them back to their homes. Due to negligence and lack of monitoring by parents, they fall back into their old habits. Besides, society also stigmatises them. If this is not corrected, the attitude of the children cannot be changed,” said a staff member.

Sources from the Social Defence Department said that they are working on a contingency plan. “There are psychologists at the home, and the children are segregated. We also teach them different skills. This incident was due to bail-related issues and each child has to be studied separately. Sometimes bail is delayed for the safety of the child,” said an official.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 6:25:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/child-rights-activists-want-underlying-problems-in-government-homes-to-be-addressed/article32872442.ece

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