Much has been said on the importance of the role that parents, guardians, and family play in the upbringing of children and youth. While most parents are to be commended for their parenting skills, however, being much too compassionate can do more harm than good. Many parents and guardians choose to ignore the obvious indicators that make children and youth more prone to anti-social behaviours and actions that bring them in conflict with the law.
Compassionate hearts tend to forgive and move on without holding the youth responsible for their punitive actions. Such an approach does nothing to bring forth the necessary preventive or curative measures needed to resolve such issues. Just mere masking of the conflict only aggravates the situation. There are times when parents avoid the truth, or choose to remain oblivious to the situation.
Parents, guardians, relatives, and siblings must play a proactive role in preventing and controlling youth violence. All of us have to shoulder responsibilities. Try to become a better parent or family; seek counseling support, and try positive role modeling. Also, being compassionate does not mean you have to ignore the disciplinary interventions that are needed as part of curative measures.
Parent and guardian of repeat offenders must also be subjected to more scrutiny that is permissible under law, so as to hold them accountable for the social ills as well. As criminal proceedings take time, resource and money, therefore, it will be sensible to charge a penalty in monetary form for the expenses incurred starting from the time that law enforcers are deployed to nab the offenders.
Our compassion also limits the youth. Parents and guardians must push the youth to be more independent so that they can strike out on their own. The youth cannot remain stagnant in the security nets provided by the family. They must learn to productive and carve out a living of their own. The parents and guardians must stop obsessing about the ideal white collar job, and encourage their children to take the humble pie, and take jobs that earn them a decent living.
Compassion makes us callous. We are less inclined or avoid doing anything when we see the youth loitering in towns or in suburbs during odd hours, and often in middle of some suspicious looking activities. How many of us stop and intervene? How many take the effort to keep them away activities that might land them in trouble? We don’t help alert the law enforcement agency on such matters. It will be of great service to the society and the nation if we play our part in offering solutions to the problem.
(5) Law and Law Enforcement Agencies: Firm Approach Vs Soft Approach
Law enforcement personnel from Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), Bhutan Narcotic Control Authority (BNCA), etc. are to be commended for the tough job they do under difficult circumstances. The RBP partnership programmes with schools, colleges, parents and community is admirable. Such efforts put in place to curb the youth violence, however, are viewed as a soft approach. The soft approach gives room to offenders to repeat the same offence. If you go by the recent spate of stabbing cases reported in the media, it is clear the sentencing was not an enough of a deterrent to keep the offenders from committing such offence. Can it be a case of coincidence, or were the culprits not aware of news on the many stabbing cases? There are often many a compromise and agreements made between the victims and perpetrators outside of the courts to settle such serious unlawful acts. It is obvious that a compromise based on mutual understanding or nangdrig” cannot curb the serious offences, as most of the culprits who are freed on such mutual agreement are repeat offenders.
Against the backdrops presented above, one is tempted to ask a series of questions in relation to law and violence: Are the provisions in the law that follows international norms very hard to interpret to put into our local context? Are the provisions in the law too compassionate so that it makes it easy for perpetrators to get away with violence? Are the provisions in the law tying the hands of the law enforcers from doing their duties? Are the law enforcement agencies and personnel downplaying the provisions? Is it because the Bhutanese culture and the law are inseparably interwoven? Lastly, do Bhutanese generally enjoy breaking laws for whatever reason that pleases them? These questions deserve some reflections.
6) Sharing of information
We are aware of the agencies like, RBP, BNCA, rehabilitation centres and hospitals have records of youth who have been in conflict with the law. It takes time and research to identify the culprits, and even the schools and higher learning institution, must invest time in identifying students who inclined towards anti- social behaviours or vices. Linking such records is important so that law enforcement agencies have a good lead of the case and can intervene with more ease.
I believe the strategies which might be worth a consideration are:
1. Schools, colleges, institutions, and relevant organizations can create a database of all youth who students or individuals run into problems or are in conflict with the law.
2. The database on the culprits must be accessible by schools, colleges, institutions, employers, law enforcers, etc. This will include the detailed information on the offender’s personal track records, parents/guardians information and their socio-economic background.
The citizenship identity number of the offender can be used as key to punch in the data by the relevant agencies. Sharing such information will help in the preventive measures, and give an accurate fact and profile on the offenders.
The information should be maintained and accessed as confidential files. It should not be used to bar the youth from opportunities, but should act as deterrent from vices. The National Statistical Bureau (NSB) might want to use its expertise in maintaining such a database.
This opinion paper is written with the best intention, to have a safe and bright Bhutan, where youth are empowered with a sense direction or purpose, and cherished for their positive capabilities. I sincerely believe, there is yet time for molding and correcting our youth, after all they are human beings who possess the elements of the Buddha nature. The stakeholders and individuals must come together to solve the predicament we face in curbing the youth violence.
Some ideas expressed in this paper might appear to be on the radical side, and could raise eyebrows. Do accept my apology in advance, for any sentiments that I might have hurt. The thoughts contained here should not be considered a repetition, but rather as a reiteration of the concerns on the issue at hand.
(The writer is Director, Sherubtse College)