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Terrace Talks, by Litje Hu

On the 24th of September, as part of the Terrace Talk Series, Apne Aap Women Worldwide invited senior advocate and activist Anant Kumar Asthana to talk about juvenile justice, rape and death penalty. The Delhi gang rape, which led to a three-year detention in a correctional home for the juvenile delinquent, was thereby used as the point of departure.

Initially the calm presentation of the topic opened old case studies and later turned out to be a heated and lively discussion. Mr. Asthana is of the opinion that children and adolescents do not act on a calculated basis. That is, because of their age, it’s in their nature to challenge their limits. They have the tendency to act recklessly, with no calculated intentions beforehand. Also, he stressed that youngsters are prone to peer pressure. They want to be part of a group, not to be excluded. They are therefore bound to make mistakes.

What they therefore need is not (only) punishment but (also) guidance from the society to correct their behavior. Mr. Asthana thinks that the death penalty is not the solution for these juvenile criminals. What they need is rehabilitation. Upon that, the audience started to critically question this rehabilitation process. What does that entail? How should that be executed? If the family of the juvenile delinquents is part of this recovery process, as Mr. Asthana suggested, how can that work if the family itself is the problem?

Mr. Asthana could not satisfy the public. He attempted to explain that there are basically two options: either death penalty or detention with rehabilitation, whatever rehabilitation might be. He would opt for the ‘less worst option’.