The dzongkhag could become one of the first to reduce cases of juvenile delinquency

Tsirang reported six teenagers coming in conflict with law in the last 15 months. While some were involved in rape cases, some were involved in child marriage and other criminal cases.  Most are students.

Last year alone 19 teenagers got pregnant in Tsirang, seven more from 2015. In 2014, the dzongkhag reported 17 teenage pregnancies mostly among students.  The number may be low when compared to other dzongkhags, but Tsirang is not being complacent about it. Should things go as targeted, Tsirang could be one of first dzongkhags to reduce the number of children coming in conflict with law, youth and drugs issue, teenage pregnancies and women issues among others.

Work has begun and the multi sectorial task force (MSTF) and community-based support system (CBSS) in Tsirang are creating awareness in schools and communities. The advocacy program is done in collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General.

After meeting family members of almost all households in Tsirang’s 12 gewogs last year, the team is now targeting schools. To begin with, four schools are chosen this year. On May 3 the team met the students of Mendrelgang Central School.

Attorney Kinley Tshering, who accompanied the MSTF and CBSS team, said that children coming in conflict with crime could be reduced with proper legal awareness programmes.

Sharing a prosecutor’s experience in dealing with criminal cases involving children, he said children over-implicate themselves and become victims of cross-examination. He said that often the child lands up being penalised for being unable to organise facts and information.  “A child also mixes the issues in the facts and are unable to present it during trial proceedings,” he said.

Legal officer and coordinator of the awareness programme Janchu Dorji said it is assumed that teenage pregnancy, youth crime and youth involvement in drugs are mainly because of people being unaware of legal system in the country.

He said the impact of such legal awareness programme would also be monitored. A survey will be conducted among students and teachers to find if the awareness programme was of help and if it brought any changes.

Tsirang drangpon Duba Dukpa reminded students not to get involved in crime or come in conflict with law. He told the students that once one has a criminal record they would never be able to lead a life with confidence. “You’ll never be able to join politics. Politics is important in a democracy,” he said.

He also told students that there were several students who after being convicted realised what they did was wrong. “You all have to think about the consequences,” he said.

The awareness programme in other three schools of Damphu Lower Secondary School, Damphu Central School and Tsirang toed Central School will end on May 8.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang