Facts at a Glance

Facts regarding children in conflict with the law

  • Inadequate care and protection systems create multiple levels of violence against children and bring girls and boys into conflict with the law;
  • The overwhelming majority of children in the criminal justice system do not belong there;
  • The vast majority of youngsters deprived of their liberty have not been convicted of a crime and are yet to be brought to trial;
  • Misuse and overuse of detention and lack of alternatives put large numbers of boys and girls at risk of violence;
  • Imprisoning children for minor crimes decreases their chances to become productive, contributing adults, and is a disservice to communities;
  • The vast majority of children in conflict with the law are boys, but both boys and girls are subject to human rights violations.
Responses needed
  • Prevent girls and boys coming into conflict with the law in the first place by addressing the care and protection challenges they face;
  • Ensure that prevention, diversion and protection strategies are gender-sensitive, taking into account the over-representation of boys in the system as well as the problems faced by girls due to their minority status;
  • Decriminalise status offences and survival behaviours (such as begging, loitering; vagrancy), victims of sexual abuse and exploitation, and anti-social behaviours;
  • Utilise diversion as the presumed response to offenses, and reserve the formal criminal/juvenile justice system only for serious/violent offenders;
  • Ensure comprehensive, child-focused restorative juvenile justice systems that implement international standards;
  • Hold perpetrators of violence against boys and girls accountable through effective and transparent complaints, monitoring, investigation and redress mechanisms.
Text adapted from Summary Report - Violence Against Children in Conflict with the Law: A Thematic Consultation for the UN Secretary General's Study on Violence Against Children

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A child-centred system recognizes the child as subject to fundamental rights and freedoms and ensures that all actions concerning the child are to be guided by his/her best interests.


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