The government’s proposal to reduce the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years has reignited a complex debate on juvenile justice, following recent incidents of severe bullying among minors. 

This decision comes in the wake of a harrowing episode in Rasdhoo Island of Alifu Alifu Atoll, where video evidence of a child being bullied and assaulted by peers brought the issue of juvenile delinquency to the forefront of national discourse.

Former Commissioner of Police, Mohamed Hameed, has expressed scepticism towards the move, suggesting that lowering the age of criminal accountability is not a panacea for the problems at hand. He advocates for a unified, government-wide approach focusing on early intervention and prevention to tackle juvenile delinquency more effectively.

Hameed echoed the sentiments of Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem, who underscored the importance of rehabilitation over incarceration, warning against the creation of a generation of young criminals through harsh punitive measures.

Contrastingly, Dunya Maumoon, former Foreign Minister and independent candidate for the South Hulhumale’ parliamentary seat, argues for the necessity of legal reforms to address the lack of punishment for minors committing crimes with deliberate intent. Describing the incident as “extremely violent,” Dunya stressed the urgency of addressing such issues and the role of legal frameworks in enabling appropriate responses to juvenile crime.

Dunya also highlighted the broader societal responsibility in preventing juvenile delinquency, emphasising the crucial role of parents in teaching children the distinction between right and wrong. 

Her remarks reflect a growing consensus on the need for a multifaceted approach to juvenile crime, one that balances the requirements of legal reform with the responsibilities of societal and parental guidance.

Amidst this debate, the government insists on the necessity of its proposed legal amendment to lower the age of criminal responsibility, citing statistics from the Department of Juvenile Justice indicating a significant number of at-risk children, particularly between the ages of 12 and 14. 

This legislative shift aims to provide a framework for addressing juvenile crime more effectively, though it faces criticism from various quarters for potentially exacerbating the very issues it seeks to solve.