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Contexto Internacional

Print version ISSN 0102-8529On-line version ISSN 1982-0240


KUMAR, Shailesh. Shifting Epistemology of Juvenile Justice in India. Contexto int. [online]. 2019, vol.41, n.1, pp.113-140. ISSN 0102-8529.

The conception of juvenile justice has its ontological root in the internationalisation of childhood and construction of children as a distinct social class. The Euro-centric vision of children as rights-possessors that informed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (1989) transformed the epistemology of juvenile justice. India ratified the CRC in 1992, and defined ‘child’ uniformly, irrespective of sex, unlike in the past, thereby challenging its gendered subjectivity of ‘female child.’ Such an emergence of a new modality of delivering juvenile justice that I see as the epistemic shift did not last long, and one gory incident, alongside mediatised demonisation of male children, and brewing social discontent on women’s safety, changed its landscape. This paper foregrounds an analysis of the role of gender in juvenile justice jurisprudence from the colonial period to the present time. Reflecting on the populist punitiveness at play, it talks about the Indian state’s poverty of understanding of children’s rights. Mapping legislative, juridical and political dimensions of the journey of the juvenile justice framework in India, the paper shows how construction of gendered notions of a particular group of male child offenders has resulted in the punitive turn of the juvenile justice system in India. It further unpacks the potentiality of repercussions of such punitiveness, and offers reasons as to why a retributive response by the state is a step backwards in reforming juvenile delinquents. Overall, it narrates the story of a political-systemic failure to deal with an important social issue, which may act as a lesson to be learnt with respect to the child governance framework, both for the countries in South Asia and the wider global South.

Keywords : juvenile justice; male child offender; India; populist punitiveness; gender bias; Supreme Court of India; serious offence.

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