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Experts oppose Maneka Gandhi's proposal to reduce juvenile age bar to 16 years
Union minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi in a proposal has said that the juvenile age bar should be reduced to 16 years from the exiting 18. She said that juvenile rape accused should be punished in the way adult rape accused are punished by the courts.

In a bid to justify her proposal she said that according to police, 50 per cent of all the sexual crimes were committed by juveniles.

The debate on whether the juvenile age bar should be reduced to 16 or not surfaced after one of the accused in the horrific gang rape and murder of Nirbhaya on December 16, 2012 was found to be juvenile, but the most brutal.

However, not many, agree with the suggestions made by the minister that by reducing the age of juvenile to 16 will solve the issue of rapes.

Experts feel that if juvenile commits a crime them it is not his mistake, but it is the failure of the system. And punishing a child like an adult is not right. Here are the views of different experts on Maneka Gandhi's proposal over juvenile law:

Woman's rights activists version:

Kavita KrishnanKavita Krishnan, Secretary of All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) says, "My very strong opinion on it is that, this government as well as the previous government should have been guided by the justice Verma committee's suggestions on this and all other cases pertaining to violence against women. Justice Verma Committee's has very clearly opposed the lowering of the age of juveniles for various reason."

She added, "A 16 year old cannot weight the consequences of his decision, of-course they are aware of what is sex. But sexually aware people are sexually aware at the age of 13 and 14, so that does not mean that they are adult with the capacity to weight the full consequences of their act. Anybody will tell that at that teen-ship they will be terribly perceptible to consequences around them. Now, how to bring change in the atmosphere around a 16 yrs old, how do we ensure that they are surrounded by correct messages of sex, rather than the messages that are encouraging them to rape that is the question that the government has to answer. And this is something the government is not going to do if they increase the juvenile age limit. They are going to reduce their responsibility that means the crime will go up and not come down."

Mamta SharmaMamta Sharma, Chairperson of National Commission for Women says, "I also agree that the juvenile age that has been made is sounding wrong because, 50 per cent sexual crime is done by juveniles, according to the police data. This is a very sensible issue and doing anything in this, the topic need to be debated and discussed. I think because of the information technology and because of the social media, if we see the 16 years child, he/she is fully grown up. Only, a psychologist can tell us that why the juveniles are doing all this? Is their mentality wrong? So, I feel a debate is needed on this topic and then only a decision should be taken about the amendment of the act. The child right's commission also should change their view on it and they should talk sensibly."

Men's Rights activist version:

Virag DhuliaVirag Dhulia, a men's rights activist says, "We oppose her statement, and the reason we oppose is that if she want to exit a punishment then also give them the rights. Juveniles don't have many rights, like they don't have voting right, they don't n have a proper voice, and their are many other things where they are actually handicapped in the society, as a social section. So, just by increasing the punishment things won't be improved. And their are many young boys who are still forced into child labour. We are saying that we don't do child labour, then who is implementing those policies. Is anyone talking about young boys forced to do child labour, human trafficking and prostitution. But we just want to increase the punishment after every incident."

Psychologists version:

Dr. Manish GuptaDr. Maneesh Gupta, a Psychologist says, "That is a very difficult question, and their is no generalized right or wrong answer. One individual over the age of 15 might be mature enough to understand the difference between right and wrong another individual above the age of 15 might not be. So, the test of maturity should be on individual basis. But yes I will support the idea that legally we should not prohibit the norm from prosecuting anybody who has conducted a heinous crime, just because of the age, because age and maturity are two different things."

Lawyers version:

Vrinda GroverVrinda Grover, a Human Rights lawyer says, "I think its a very very regressive move and it will neither add to the security of women and it goes against India's international obligation under the child right convention. As well as this is contrary to all the latest studies which shows that what the juveniles need at this particular age when they are impressionable, when they can indulge in such crimes, they need much more intensive guidance. Putting them in the criminal justice system will not reform them and it will only be adding to the problem that we already have at a very very grave condition. So, I strongly oppose this move. This is not in the interest of women."

Arvind Jain, lawyer on woman's issues says, "Its altogether a nonsense, because recently in 2013 BJP was a party behind the enactment of the amendment of the criminal law bill after Nirbhaya. There the age of consent was raised from 16 to 18, it means below 18 girls consent or no consent, it will be treated as a rape. But for juveniles you are reducing the age from 18 to 16, why? What is the logic behind it? What is the survey? What is the research that Maneka Gandhi has. Every Tom Dick and harry is talking about laws and is misusing their power. They don't realize about its consequences, they don't understand the law and they just talking bullshit in the press. This is ridiculous."

Save the Children, an NGO in a statement on Maneka Gandhi's proposal, said, "It is a misconception that Juvenile crime rate is very high and our society is at risk. Juvenile crime constitutes a minuscule fraction of the total crimes being committed in India. As per the National Crime Records Bureau's annual reports on Crime in India, the percentage of crimes under Indian Penal Code (IPC) reportedly committed by juveniles to total IPC crimes reported in the country has ranged from 1.0% to 1.2% in the last four years. Most of the juveniles were apprehended for property-related offences such as theft and burglary. As opposed to this, only 5%-8% were apprehended for crimes such as rape and murder. While media reportage of juvenile crime has increased in the recent past, evidence on the ground does not support the view that juvenile crime has assumed massive proportions in India. The fear that Indian society is "under threat" from its children is grossly exaggerated."

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