News

Government to protect young female offenders

 

  • Youthful Offenders (Amendment) Bill presented in Parliament
  • Female juvenile offenders presently sent to prison while similar males sent to detention schools

 

BY Pamodi Waravita

Justice Minister President’s Counsel (PC) M.U.M. Ali Sabry said yesterday (21) that the amendments contained in the Youthful Offenders (Training Schools) (Amendment) Bill, which was tabled in Parliament yesterday, are aimed at ensuring that child protection norms are adhered to, especially in the case of female children.

The Consultative Committee on Justice Reforms presented the Youthful Offenders (Training Schools) (Amendment) Bill in Parliament yesterday for the “purposes of being gender neutral” and to “amend the age limit previously established as below 18 to be between 18-22 years”.

“We are presenting these amendments for two main reasons. “Firstly, we believe that no child under the age of 18 years should be punished by being sent to prison. Under the current law, an offender who is above the age of 16 years is either sent to prison or to detention schools. Secondly, since the current law, which allows children below the age of 16 years to be sent to detention schools, only applies to boys, girls of the same age are sent to prison where they are kept with older offenders. Many concerned parties have spoken to me regarding this matter as it goes against child protection norms, both international and domestic,” said Ali Sabry PC.

He said that the reforms are brought as part of the Justice Ministry’s broader efforts to reform criminal, civil, and commercial law in the country and that this particular Amendment is therefore specifically aimed at ensuring that children get a fairer chance to construct a more positive future.

“They should not be in prison at that age with older offenders as it impacts their future negatively. This is why we are presenting these new laws to distinguish youth offenders separately so that there is a different reform process for them. Our hope is that they will not be criminals in the future, but that they will be rehabilitated and will enter society with trained skills,” Ali Sabry PC added.

The Minister noted that the Sri Lankan law has many different definitions of what constitutes a child, and that these reforms also hope to address these discrepancies.

The Ministerial Consultative Committee on Justice also presented a Bill in Parliament yesterday to amend the Penal Code to yet again affirm the death sentence not being given to minors and to replace the sentencing of such convicted minors to be detained at the President’s pleasure, as is currently the case, with custodial sentences.