Juvenile Justice A Challenge for Child Convicts in Uganda

13118 Views Kampala, Uganda
Most of the children caught up in conflict with the law, have either been locked up for theft, assault or for fighting among themselves. Compared to boys, majority of the girls involved in commission of crime, are those working as maids. Carol Bankusha, the Probation and Welfare Officer at Kampala City Council, says most of the girls facing the juvenile courts struggle with tramped up charges by their bosses. She says some girls working as maids in homes and restaurants are accused of stealing money or babies, as a way of denying them what is due to them. //Cue in: "They are trafficked... Cue out: ...cover-up."// The Children Act only puts criminal liability on children of 12 years and above. Child welfare officers say, the environment in which children are exposed to, leads them into committing crime. For example orphans left to house helps, have very little guidance to give to the children. Adults are also known to use children to enter into offices where they open for adults to steal. Drug abuse and alcoholism, broken marriages and single parents contribute to juvenile delinquencies. Children with a history of drug abuse are known even to commit capital offences like murder, rape and child-to-child sex. Cases have been reported in Kamwokya and Banda where children have murdered their grand parents over food. Most of the children however steal for survival like get something to eat. Others are more involved in crime because many of them are not in school and are doing petty trade for a living. Children were formerly held for defilement but later changed it to child-to-child sex because the law did not favor boys. Today if a parent reports defilement then both the boy and girl are arrested. According to Bankusha though some children are known for stealing from their families and neighbours. Christine Alaro, The head of the Child and Family Unit in the Uganda Police Force, says police never arrests children but they are brought to police stations by their parents, neighbors or bosses. Unlike adults, children are rarely locked-up at police stations. According to Alaro, police stations do not have special cells for children so they always hand them over to a relative who will bring them whenever they are wanted at police. //Cue in: "When a child... Cue out: ...child."// At police the children accept their offences. However some parents insist their children are locked up for sometime to change and are booked into Kampiringisa. Doreen Kyaligonza, says such children normally develop into habitual criminals who start off as petty offender and end up as robbers. She says some children prefer to commit crime so that they are taken to the remand. Kyaligonza says cases of children arrested for petty offences their cases should be heard and disposed off with in three months. While children help on capital offences their cases should be heard and disposed off with in six months. Kyaligonza says absence of police files; lack of family and children courts was denying children justice. According to her many children always find themselves returning to crime and in remand home due to conditions at home. //Cue in: "Children return... Cue out: ...crime."// In Kampala, children in conflict with the law are taken to Mwanga II court, Makindye court, Nakawa court and Nabweru court. They are locked up in Naguru Remand Home and Kampiringisa rehabilitation center. The probation and welfare officer Kampala Carol Bankusha advises adults to keep a watchful eye over children and even help them pursue education to keep them out of crime.

 

Tagged with: children