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August 10, 2003 

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Juvenile delinquency

An inquiry into the causes

Sheikh Hafizur Rahman Karzon

Juvenile delinquency is an inextricable problem for any human society. Aftermath of any war, economic depression, or any catastrophic situation jeopardize social fabric and existing social structure having severe impact on family and children. Any transition or transformation of society will have same impact on the young folk. Deviant juvenile subcultures represent the malfunctioning of social components in any country.

Juvenile delinquency in USA
The problem of severe juvenile delinquency was first appeared in American society. As an offshoot of the social disorganisation the slum juveniles in down-town Chicago created a network of gangs with distinctive culture. The Wall Street crash and the depression of 1930s worsened the overall economic situation causing severe social disorganisation in America. It also aggravated the situation of juvenile delinquency. Young folk of America developed a culture of criminal gangs widening their criminal activities in different parts of the country. Economic deprivation, class oriented social structure and consumerist ethos caused this increased rate of juvenile delinquency which has been continuing for decades. Robert K. Merton identified juvenile delinquency as a result of the strain between culture goal and social structure. American society has determined a culture goal, i.e., to acquire wealth for all the citizens and has specified hard labour honesty, education for achieving that goal. But there is gap between theory and practice. Social recognition to people who have acquired wealth through ways not approved by the society and insufficient social opportunities to acquire wealth causes high rate of deviant subculture. The strain, created due to the contradiction between culture goal and socially approved means, has tremendous pressure on the young resulting emergence of deviant subcultures. Rather than being the product of strain Albert Cohen saw the deviant subculture as an endeavour to resolve problems encountered by adolescents in a class based society. When failed to achieve middle class success within the social structure, then juveniles are behaving in an abnormal manner and developing deviant subcultures. In this way middle-class value system is being inverted by the juvenile delinquent subcultures.

Juvenile delinquency in UK
The consequences of Second World War and growing inequalities had very damaging impact on the social structure of Britain, specifically on the family and children causing increase in the rate of juvenile delinquency. From about 1955 the juvenile delinquency started to rise. Surrounding increasing affluence young people begun to enjoy freedom that was greater than that of previous generations. This paved the way for development of youth culture. The appearance of rock'n'roll with long jackets with velvet collars, bootlace ties, drainpipe trousers, and sued shoes was outrageous for the moral standard of Britain. In the late 1960s the skinheads, the most aggressive of all subcultures, appeared and later on replaced by suede heads and other variants on the style and associated with football hooliganism. Originating from unskilled working class they tried to recreate the traditional working class community with their racism, opposition to hippy values and particular construction of their style.
Most of the British youth cultures in the 1960s were working-class origin, the last years of the decade experienced the emergence of a middle-class counter culture, designated as hippy culture, was largely made up of students and ex-students. The early 1970s experienced the Afro-Caribbean cultural resistance. In this time the view that the relation between crime and black youth and that the blacks were innately criminal took strong hold. Around 1976 punk appeared with bin liners, safety pins, PVC, graffiti, ripped clothing and bondage gear as a resistance to the conventional dress style. Its music, dancing, band names, song titles and language were totally different.

Photo: Star

Juvenile delinquency in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh we have not experienced any counter youth culture like Teds, Mods, Rock'n'Roll, Hippy or Punk of Britain or any young gang culture of the U.S.A. outraging moral and social concern. But the process of urbanisation (which started from 1960s), migration from village to city (which started at a large scale from 1980s), vulnerable economic condition and impact of globalisation caused social transformation, though slow, of Bangladesh. The large joint families started to break into segments and single parent family begun to get prominence. Economic deprivation, unemployment, poverty, flimsy family ties, media influence and criminalised politics made a fertile ground for increased rate of juvenile delinquency.

There are three correctional centres in Bangladesh for rectification and rehabilitation of juveniles. Two (one is in Tongi, and other in Jessore) for male child, and one (it is in Kunapara) for female child. Two categories of children are kept therefirst category constitutes of uncontrollable children and referred by parents and second category comes to the correction centres after committing offences and referred by courts.

Very causes of the juvenile delinquency
A considerable segment of people of this country are very poor. They live below poverty line in terms of the true indicators of poverty. According to recent statistics, around 6.5 million people of Bangladesh are living below poverty line. Due to poor economic condition, parents cannot get their children to go to educational institutions and assist them in developing good educational or vocational career. Parents want their children to assist them in work field instead of going to educational institutions. Some times parents cannot provide their children with all basic necessities of human life, specifically food and clothing. Then the poor children set their legs out towards criminal activities. The children do not know which activities are lawful and which are not. They require some work which can provide their food and clothing. Organised gangs deploy poor children in criminal activities by taking advantage of their vulnerable economic condition. Recent statistics show that, huge number of poor children (under 16 years of age) of Jessore and Khulna have been deployed in carrying Phensydil, and other contraband drugs. Some poor children become members of pick pocket gangs and petty thievery.

Problematic family is a crucial cause for the deviation of the juveniles. Absence of father or mother due to death or divorce, lack of parental control, lack of home discipline, bad relation between father and mother, presence of criminal among the members of family are the principal indications of problematic family. Due to these problems the mental growth of a child takes an abnormal course. In slum areas adult males and females get married several times. They have children of their first and second marriages. These children are not usually taken care of. These uncared children become notorious criminal of different organised gangs. The juveniles of a well-off family having father residing abroad derails due to lack of father's guidance. They get huge amount of money from their father. Affluence and father's absence makes the juvenile to involve with vicious circle.

Due to poverty, loss of land by river erosion, and unemployment lots of people has been migrating from different parts of the country to Dhaka and other metropolitan cities. Large scale migration from village to city started from 1980s. Many women of rural areas came to city and started working in garment factories. This titanic migration had degenerating affect on city life destroying social equilibrium of Dhaka, Chittagong and some other metropolitan cities. The people coming from villages usually take shelter in slum areas, pavements and streets. They are deprived of basic necessities and basic amenities of life. Father and mother of the family go out of their abode at the very first hour of the day for earning money remaining their children uncared and uncontrolled. In this situation children (popularly known as tokai) are used by the politicians in their political activities, which include picketing and ransacking cars and shops. They are also utilised by the organised gangs in their criminal activities.
Surrounding environment of slum area, smuggling zone and crime prone areas are very vulnerable for the juveniles. When residing in such areas juveniles come in contact with criminal pattern and learn criminal techniques, then they become notorious criminals. Action movies and obscene pictures have negative impact on the mind set of the juveniles. The violence and sexuality visualised in the movies make the juvenile to go brothel and involve them with violent activities.

Concluding Remarks
Juveniles are the future of any society and require special care and attention. Due to their susceptibility they respond to social malfunctioning and other anomalies in ways not approved by social norms and values. Their resistance to the dominant culture indicates the necessity of reorganising the social institutions and spatial attention being given to promote the cause of juveniles.

Sheikh Hafizur Rahman Karzon is a Lecturer, Department of Law, Dhaka University.


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