Juvenile delinquency - anti-social or criminal activity by minors - is a common issue in all societies. More challenging is how to deal with it considering the fact that juvenile offenders are physiologically immature and lack full awareness of the consequences of their actions. The very concept of juvenile justice underscores the imperative for a specialized approach in dealing with young offenders, by providing a set of special laws and procedures, distinct from ordinary criminal laws. This approach emphasizes diversion and rehabilitation over punitive measures.

Given the paramount importance of treating juveniles differently in the criminal justice process, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 November 1989 and was adopted by 57 member states, including Pakistan, in September 1990. CRC requires the member states to establish exclusive juvenile justice systems. Pakistan took another 10 years to give effect to the principles laid down in the CRC, when it first promulgated the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) in 2000. It was subsequently replaced by the currently-in-vogue, Juvenile Justice System Act (JJSA), 2018.

Acknowledging the distinctive needs and vulnerabilities of juveniles and recognizing the need for tailored legal procedures, education, skill development, and an emphasis on compassionate accountability, the National Police Bureau (NPB) has established the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Unit (JJCPU). The unit is mandated to perform the following functions:


      1. Review existing laws on juvenile justice, collect and analyze data, undertake research studies to inform evidence-based policy decisions and identify areas for improvement in the juvenile justice system;
      2. Conduct assessments to identify vulnerabilities in child protection to develop protocols and guidelines for preventing, identifying, and responding to crimes against children;
      3. Develop comprehensive and evidence-based policies related to the handling of juvenile offenders. Propose SOPs and guidelines and update police and criminal justice partners, to align with evolving legal standards and societal needs;
      4. Establish effective reporting mechanisms for crimes against children and collaborate with relevant authorities for prompt intervention;
      5. Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of child protection initiatives, refining strategies based on data-driven insights.
      6. Organize training programs for law enforcement personnel, judges, and other stakeholders involved in juvenile justice and child protection, ensuring they are well-equipped to handle cases with a focus on rehabilitation and fair treatment;
      7. Establish and maintain partnerships with relevant government agencies, NGOs, and international bodies working on juvenile justice and child protection;
      8. Collaborate with NCRC, NCHR, CPWB, community leaders, civil society organizations and other stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive, inclusive and informed approach;
      9. Stay abreast of international best practices and ensure that national policy frameworks are aligned with national laws, international conventions, and human rights standards;
      10. Promote diversion programs and community service initiatives as alternatives to traditional legal proceedings for minor offences.