Ensuring justice for children
How diversion and rehabilitation programmes are supporting children who come in conflict with the law
Paro: Ajay* has never been as busy as he has been for the past few months. The 18-year old is part of a film production crew and handles the wardrobe for the actor while learning the camera and lighting works.
“I do well when I am engaged with work,” he says. “I like being part of a production team and I am also learning to drive.”
As a Child in Conflict with the Law (CICL), Ajay works as a member of the production crew is part of the diversion programme that UNICEF and partners implement across Bhutan so that instead of being drawn into proceedings that negatively affect their physical and mental health, children receive support through social services and community-based programming.
He is grateful for the support he has received from Nazhoen Lamtoen, a civil society organisation that supports children who come in conflict with the law. Along with Nazhoen Lamtoen and partners, UNICEF in 2022, supported 168 children including five females with diversion and non-custodial measures.
About an hour’s drive away in the capital city Thimphu is Dorji*, 22, who works as a driver at a scrap yard. Unlike Ajay, Dorji served his term at the Youth Rehabilitation Development Centre and with the support of UNICEF and Nazhoen Lamtoen is being reintegrated into the society.
He stayed with his aunt for about three months after he was released from the centre. “My family was worried I might get into trouble again, so I stayed home and helped my aunty with household chores,” says Dorji. “Then, with Nazhoen Lamtoen’s support, I enrolled in a driving school and started working at the scrap yard.”
The youngest son in the family, Dorji lived with his mother and siblings in a village in Samtse, southern Bhutan after he lost his father when he was four years old. He moved to Thimphu after completing his rehabilitation.
For young people like him, he says, support from CSOs and programmes such as diversion and rehabilitation give them a second chance in life.
“We get shelter, we learn skills at the rehabilitation centre and play sports as well,” he said. “I have realized my mistakes and wow I want to work well, learn to drive heavy vehicles and settle down.”