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Most law systems have special consideration for juvenile offence, as they are treated as less severe than adult crimes. But depending on the severity of the crimes, juvenile delinquency is also punished as seen proper. Juvenile delinquents are treated or put before law in separate court systems and different punishment methods are employed in their case. The case in point however is the issue of juvenile delinquency in UAE. The reasons and the policies adopted by the government to curb it. Is it really reducible? It has to be seen. A proper analysis of the government's measures and its success with these measures has to be carried out.
Juvenile delinquency are of various forms. But only some of them are severe or punishable. For example underage smoking is an offence, but it is not punished with jail or detention. The adolescent age and peer interactions lead most youth into minor forms of offences, but only few cases prolong this antisocial behavior into the adulthood. Only 5-10% result in lifelong criminal behavior. There are 3 types of juvenile delinquencies.
Delinquency - this is normal legal offence and is punished in juvenile court
Criminal acts - this type is more sever and violent and is often punished as per adult rules
Status offences - or normative adolescent offences like smoking
Most delinquencies are more common in males than females. The aggressive and masculine nature of young boys make them more susceptible to commit violent acts. But minor delinquencies are also committed by female adolescents.
Delinquency is normally understood as formative behavior rather than criminal behavior. So the laws pertaining to this area are considerate of the age of the juveniles and repeatedly affirms corrective actions. The measures are meant to guide these minors to proper and accepted social behavior and be more steadfast in the dissemination of duties while living in a society.
Factors that influence juvenile delinquency
As per the popular expectation, young adolescents are spontaneously aggressive or offensive. But this is not the case. There are factors that influence these offensive behavior and often they could be summarized as follows.
Upbringing: the way a person is brought up has a major influence on the way he behaves. The ways of the family and especially the parents has this effect on the children. Harsh upbringing will produce more harsh and stern characters in the children this can often result in violent behavior. The limits of social interactions has to be instilled in the children in a very systematic way rather than harsh measures.
Peer interactions: peer interactions are a major factor of bad behavior among juveniles. This is because the children come form various backgrounds and the effect of the upbringing will affect the characters of his friends. So it is easy to acquire bad traits from friends and often this is prevelant among boys who fight for imagined victories and heroism.
Low economic status: the low economic status of people is a major factor of bad upbringing and harsh conditions for children. There will be little time spent with the children and lack of love and care will drive the children to more violent behavior. This is caused by attention grabbing psychology of poor children who are often not cared for.
Lack of religious or other moral training: proper religious upbringing instills a sense of moral behavior among people. What is acceptable and not acceptable will be government by religious law, which gives more authenticity to the values being proposed. The strictness with which these values are instilled determines the resultant behavior in the children. Children should understand that they have to practice a religious life for attaining good character and a healthy social life.
Individual psychology: some children have a special inclination towards criminal behavior. This is often dangerous and has to be dealt with the most care. These children need special councelling and guidance and they have to be given psychological help. These children can often influence the behavior of their peers.
Criminal behavior and juvenile delinquency
Strain: often criminal behavior is governed by the overwhelming influence of pressure on the children. They are subjected to such apparent responsibility that a fear of failure or punishment drives them to rebel and maintain sanity. The theory of strain bases criminal behavior on the unmanageable pressure put on young minds by the environment they find themselves in.
Social disorientation: children may feel alienated form the social setup which is prevelant in the immediate surroundings. Due to various factors they may feel alienated or a sense of inferiority complex may develop to dangerous proportions and may result in criminal behavior.
Identity crisis: often inferiority complex resuls in identity crisis. Children find it hard to affirm their personality and this results in their trying to coomitt acts thry think are acts of affirmation. Often these ides they will harbor from the peer group and results in many anti social behavior.
Peer pressure: pressure among the friendship group may drive some children to commit delinquency. These acts vary from minor to major crimes. These acts are not premeditated. They simply follow suit with the group behavior and end in dangerous offences being committed.
Social environment: the environment in which the child grows definitely influences the way he behaves. Children often imitate their immediate surroundings and acquire many good and bad qualities from them. This includes family, friends and environment.
Juvenile delinquency in UAE
The issue of juvenile and teen delinquency is extremely sensitive in the UAE. The country's juveniles live in a highly diverse environment at cultural, social and behavioral levels owing to the huge number of expatriates of multiple nationalities living in the country. It is true that the UAE's development strategy largely relies on foreign laborers as the mainstay of economic activity owing to shortage in its national workforce. Expatriates, on the other hand, represent diverse cultures, customs and traditions that differ from ours to varying degrees. Consequently, if teenagers and juveniles aren't guided properly, they end up experiencing internal conflicts about contradicting or overlapping values.
While dealing with violence - that has spread among teenagers recently - we must differentiate between occasional squabbles among peers or school mates and criminal violent acts punishable by law. Our concern here is acts of violence and counter-violence they trigger. Statistics released by the UAE Ministry of Social Affairs and the Family and Juveniles Prosecution in Dubai show that the number of juveniles who committed robbery and assault in the country, and those who have been housed in the UAE's five juvenile care centers, reached 848 in 2009, increasing 32 percent compared to 2008. This indicates the extent of the problem and necessitates stepped up efforts to find a solution in the interest of public security. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already taken steps in this direction by rehabilitating UAE juvenile delinquents. It provided jobs to some and helped others to continue their education, which would ultimately ensure that they take part in community building efforts.
Ministry of Social Affairs data reveals that the five care centers in the UAE received 683 juveniles in 2009 while the Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre in Dubai received 165 citizen juveniles during the same year, compared to 472 in 2008. Figures also reveal that 258 of the juveniles registered by the ministry in 2009, or 38 percent of the total number, were born to national parents while juveniles with a UAE national father and a foreign mother amounted to 425, a ratio of 62 percent of the total housed in care centers. This indicates the critical role played by families in relation to juvenile delinquency as their ratio from mixed marriages is double the number from marriages between nationals.
According to the head of Family and Juveniles Prosecution (FJP) in Dubai, 342 juveniles registered in 2009 included 165 citizens and about 50 percent of the total number of registered juveniles was involved in 250 cases, mostly first-degree assault and robbery related crimes. FJP Statistics show that 52 citizen juveniles involved in these cases were born to foreign mothers, while others were born to fathers having more than one wife. This is another proof of the significance of parents' nationality with regard to juvenile delinquency.
The family undoubtedly plays a crucial role in inculcating social righteousness among the juvenile population. Family is the primary mold in which a child is brought up and it plays a decisive role in protecting children from distractions. No social research or study defies this conclusion except in societies where children live independent of their families from an early age. Besides, secondary factors such as bad company or modern methods of committing crimes support the juveniles' tendency to adopt delinquent and criminal attitudes. However, the more firm the primary nurturing children get the more resistant they become to these external factors. Hence, in order to reduce verbal, moral and physical violence that is often associated with certain juvenile crimes, the family should help teenagers cope up with that critical age through flexible and sound instruction and counseling. Indeed, the biggest part of the solution lies in the hands of the family.
Some Asian societies such as Japan tackle juvenile delinquency by referring these cases to community councils - in residence districts comprising adult mentors - before taking them to the courts. The strategy is based on the rationale that juveniles are our children first and we should find solutions to their problems within families and not in the courts where systems and laws could badly affect their future. The main objective is to shield them from penalties and protect their future by ensuring that they return to the path of virtue.
The phenomenon of juvenile delinquency wasn't so widespread in the UAE even in the recent past. The dominant social traditions commanded that youngsters must show respect to elders and problems must be solved either within the family or between various families. This was partly due to the cohesion that existed in the UAE as the nationals used to treat their neighbors' children like their own. They even used to rebuke their neighbors' children for misconduct without embittering the parent. A lot of problems used to get solved that way. There is now a need to revisit these social values.
Most of these issues are related to social and family structure and their cohesion. We must also ensure that schools play the same role they used to play earlier. Schools can help inculcate good values among youngsters by keeping them busy with useful activities during their free time, especially during long summer months. Schools should be made second home for the students. Unfortunately, this is not the case these days. The various means of entertainment available to young people hardly teach them the right values. Instead they distract them from sound principles of education that may have protected them from slipping into misconduct. The media should also play a greater role in countering this phenomenon by spreading awareness among juveniles and teenagers. This is important because often the media's negative influence - especially related to temptation and desire - opens the door for teenagers to go astray.
The best way to counter juvenile delinquency is by managing the family, school and the media environments. This should be done in such a way that protects teenagers and instills in them a genuine sense of social values. Families, educational institutions and those running the media must synergize their efforts to find an acceptable way that help the authorities perform the task of combating the problem of juvenile delinquency. It is indeed a social problem that needs social rather than a security solution. Such coordination can help reduce the social cost of this problem and bring down the number of juvenile crime in the country.
UAE government policy -Juvenile crime
The main Federal Laws concerning Juvinile justice are Penal Code 1987 as amended in 2005, The Criminal Procedure Code of 1992 as amended in 2005, The law of evidence ,1992, and the juvenile Delinquents and Vagrants Act, 1976. The Sharia Courts Act 1996 is also to be mentioned in this regard.
As per the the juvenile Delinquents and Vagrants Act, 1976, and the Penal Code , the minimum age of Criminal Responsibility under criminal law is seven years.
A juvenile is defined as a person who at the time of commission of the act was less than 18 years of age.
As per the Article 8 of this Act , if a juvenile over 16 years of age commits an offence pubishable under the Penal Code or any other legislation in force, the judge may, at his discretion, sentence him to the measures provided for in this Act instead of the prescribed penalties.
Article 9 of juvenile Delinquents and Vagrants Act, 1976, prohibits capital pubishment for a jvenile delinquent.
Article 10 provides that the sentense must be commuted to a penalty of detention for a period not exceeding half of the proscribed maximum term and must be served in Special establishments with social and educational facilities.
If a juvenile is charged for a first offence under this Act, he / she may only receive a reprimand, a formal verbal warning. If commits another offence he / she may be placed under surveillance by an order from the juvenile court. Normally Detention of a juvenile is the last resort.
Juvenile crime - solutions
The UAE Federal Law no.9 1976 for juveniles proposes corrective measures rather than punishments for juveniles.
Educational activitiesâ€¨in summer
"In the summer and due to the absence of any occupation, teens would be more inclined towards delinquency," warned Buabdullah. "When a juvenile commits an offence or a crime, the blame should not be laid on the police as they can't possibly place officers in every corner. It is the family's responsibility to be in charge of their sons and girls, especially the teens, and to watch out for the company of friends they choose to be with."
The prosecution recently launched a pilot programme titled 'Nibras' (an Arabic word which means the 'well-lit road') for school students of both sexes of ages 14 to 17 years. It comprised simplified legal lectures and a visit to the court chambers. Ninety-three per cent of the participants expressed satisfaction at the programme.
"Nibras was meant as an awareness campaign for the youths against the crimes and their consequences and penalties. The programme was in coordination with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA)".
Reconciliation inâ€¨50% of family cases
While juvenile cases are mainly assault and theft, family cases are all about insult, assault and threat. Family cases can involve relatives up to the fourth degree (that includes cousins).
Settlement in family cases has seen a success rate of 50 per cent and it is a matter of joint efforts by the police, prosecution, and the Family Court of Misdemeanour. "Sometimes, a dispute between the spouses is settled at the police station when it has already reached us. Amicable settlement is taken care of by our social care assistants at the prosecution. Even when we refer a family case to the Family Court of Misdemeanour, the judge will do everything in his power to bring about reconcilation between the disputing parties."
The family cases can be about offences or crimes which are referred to the Court of First Instance. "If the male spouse does not keep up to his promises he gave to us upon reconciliation towards ending his disputes, mainly major ones, with his wife, we find ourselves compelled to put him behind bars. Other marital problems can happen like, for instance, when a wife is beaten by her husband because she goes out of the house without his permission. Inattention and carelessness on the part of the husband can also be behind some marital problems, like when the husband takes more than a wife to the detriment of his original wife and mother of his children."
Women prosecutors excel
There are eight members at the Family and Juveniles Prosecution including five women prosecutors. "Women prosecutors have proved to be hard workers and up to the challenges and difficulties in the job.
Cases are being given to prosecutors equally except in some cases which involve mainly girls where women prosecutors are preferred." Training sessions in psychology have been organised in which everyone has to be part of - from psychiatrists to social researchers and assistants up to the reception staff.
Reasons behindâ€¨juvenile delinquency
Family negligence and inattention, father's frequent absence from home, lack of affection, and harmful company of friends are the main reasons for a juvenile to lose the right path. "We do our best to bring to the parents' attention the bad effects their inattention can have on their children's behaviour and defining future. When we exhaust all possible means to raise the parents' awareness, we resort to our partners, including the Community Development Authority (CDA), the Juvenile Awareness and Care Association and Dubai Women and Children Establishment." Some of these establishments are often requested to provide shelter and orientation for the delinquent juveniles for the necessary period of time.
Approach on aâ€¨case-to-case basis
Jail and deprivation of release on bond deposit await juveniles caught for serious crimes such as assault with swords and knives and murder. Rulings and decisions are also left to the discretion of the judge to place the teen at a juvenile prison, a care shelter or special care establishment where he will be made to attend rehabilitation and reform programmes and be subject to close and constant follow-up on the rectification of deficiencies that led to his jail term.
Very few juveniles are implicated in sodomy cases by the prosecution, according to the Chief Prosecutor. The Juveniles Prosecution tackles the cases where the defendant is a juvenile but the cases in which only the victim is a minor are referred to other prosecution depending on the jurisdiction.
Cases received by the Family and Juveniles Prosecution may not always make it to the courts. "About 30 per cent of the cases are closed and not referred to the courts. Reasons for that could be insufficient evidence, absence of the criminal elements, inauthentic grounds and incompatibility between the technical evidence and allegations and statements of witnesses," Buabdullah pointed out.