Homes or hellholes
Growing up in slums with no provision of education in a dysfunctional family coupled with easy access to pornographic content on their mobile phones have led the juvenile sexual offenders to cross all their limits. This is true in light of the recent incident where a 25 year old woman, who aspired to be a fashion designer, was strangulated and raped at her northwest Delhi residence in Mukundpur area after being killed by a 16-year-old boy along with an adult accomplice. This has not only shocked the nation but has also brought in limelight the conditions which shape a juvenile sexual offender. Crimes committed by juveniles have always been a cause of concern and are rapidly increasing over the past few years. Moreover, in the above mentioned case, what grabbed attention was what the juvenile along with an adult accomplice did to the dead woman. The twosome, professedly sexually ambushed the lady even after she was dead and dumped the body thereafter. The type of lust, known as Necrophilia, is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association as a sexual attraction or sexual act involving corpses.
Although the juvenile admitted, during his interrogation, that he was under the influence of alcohol, the heinous crime cannot be solely attributed to drug and alcohol abuse. What further triggered him was the prior knowledge about the woman staying alone at her house.
In most of such cases, crimes pertaining to juveniles such as rape, murder, molestation, eve-teasing, burglary, robbery and theft have been ascribed to inherent psychological disorders, dysfunctional families, lack of proper education, poverty and weaker socio-economic background in which the juvenile is raised. Experts feel that the families of the juvenile disassociate themselves with the adolescent owing to the fact that many of them run way from their homes. In search of a better life which is devoid of hardships that they see in their every day lives, the adolescents usually start by indulging in petty crimes. Lack of fear of the law further reinforces their belief that if they can get away after committing petty crimes, they can also get away easily after committing heinous crimes as well. In the case of the 16-year-old juvenile, he stirred the police investigation with so much ease that it was difficult for the cops to ascertain his role. Apart from factors like weak socio-economic background, issues like substance abuse too play a crucial role which gives them a feeling of high.
Amod Kanth, founder of Prayas NGO which owns 46 juvenile correctional homes across the country, cleared the air about the rise in juvenile crimes. He said, “Key factors like abysmal family structure, extremely poor conditions in which a child is raised often lead the adolescents to leave their homes and turn into vagabonds. Starting with petty crimes, the juveniles become confident and turn to major crimes. However, the number of juveniles in India is exceptionally low as compared to other countries. More than 80 per cent of the juveniles belong to extremely poor families and it is only one per cent of the juveniles who belong to lower middle class. Lack of legal assistance to the juveniles who are charged of committing a heinous crime further make them miserable which only adds to the problem of juvenile offenders.”
In an era of technology where one can easily access almost anything and everything with a click of a mouse, the rate at which adolescents or juvenile criminals take to committing crimes such as rape with so much ease is alarming. Factors like easy availability of pornographic content, lack of proper sex education in schools and zero discussion about the topic in their families, which is still considered a taboo in the society along with rampant gender bias prevalent at homes adds to the woes of the adolescents who tend to search for information on online portals. No restrictions on the availability of pornographic content fuels their unfulfilled desires. This finds vent when the adolescents growing up in a dysfunctional family witness their parents fighting over illegitimate affairs and drug abuse which often leads to domestic violence. Witnessing repeated disputes at their homes ends up in many of them leaving their households and those who are unable to do so adapt anti-social behaviours. “With rampant existence of slum clusters around the city, those present in Outer Delhi and northeast Delhi are known to have the maximum cases of crime committed by juveniles”, said a senior Delhi Police official. With no statistics available with the city police, it is difficult to keep a track on the juvenile offenders who end up becoming hardcore criminals under the influence of young adults between the age group of 20-25. Growing up to be confused, they end up devaluing relationship thus giving importance Coupled with these factors is the curiosity of a teenaged mind which harbours sexual fantasies since they are not easily fulfilled, the juvenile turns into a sexual offender.
Kanth further said, “Living with young adults who have already ventured into the crime world, these adolescents develop total disregard for the law and end up becoming aides to a particular gang where they are trained or they become goons of their own neighbourhood.”
In context to the December 16 gang rape case where a 23 year student was brutally raped in a moving bus, the decision to release the juvenile before December 15 when he will be completely three years in a correctional home and is stated to be put under the care of an NGO, who was termed to be the most brutal amongst all the accused was termed by Kanth to be a media projection. He said, “Lack of legal assistance to him (the juvenile) resulted in creating an impression that he was the most brutal. It is not true. Since the other accused had lawyers defending them and one of them spoke in the BBC documentary, people shifted their anger from the other accused persons towards the juvenile. I am not supporting him but all I am saying is juvenile crimes in india are less as compared in other countries.”
A senior police official said about the Mukundpur case that in crimes pertaining to juveniles, factors like availability of drugs and cheap liquor makes them ‘high’ so much so that they do not realise what they do and in most cases, they have absolutely no regrets about what they have done.
According to the data provided by National Crime Records Bureau in 2014 from January 1 till December 30, 1,989 criminal cases – including snatching, robbery, dacoity, attempt to murder, murder and rape – were committed by juveniles. Murder was the most common crime with 841 cases reported across the city while an attempt to murder was the second most common (728) followed by rape (126). As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the percentage of juvenile crimes as a proportion of total crimes has increased from one per cent to 1.2 per cent from 2003 to 2013. During the same period, 16- 18-year-olds accused of crimes as a percentage of all juveniles accused of crimes increased from 54 per cent to 66 percent.