National Network for Children launched a campaign “For More Humane Juvenile Justice” with a special event in Sofia on January 21. The campaign calls the institutions to reform the child justice system, appeals for revocation of the 1958 Law on Combating Antisocial Behavior of Minors and Juveniles, insists on the closure of correctional boarding schools and introduction of modern and effective measures for dealing with children in conflict with the law, including restorative justice and preventive work with them.
The other goal of the campaign is to create an understanding in the Bulgarian society that children in conflict with the law are children at risk and most often their actions are call for help as they often have been victims of violence, harassment, neglect, life in extreme poverty.
Every year, over 10,000 children in Bulgaria are affected by the 60-years old Law. Some of these children (who often do not have the support of their family to step out of the difficult situations) are punished for offences for which, in most of the cases, adults do not face sanctions: escape from home, wandering, begging, stealing food … In fact, children are extremely vulnerable and thus they need help, but are treated as criminals and are further punished for their severe fate by imposing inadequate remedial measures or boarding in correctional schools, where they do not become better people, but on the contrary – they are often victims of violence. Household and hygiene conditions at this institutions are inhuman, worse than prisons, children are devoid of quality education and adequate medical care.
“With the campaign „For More Humane Child Justice” we call children with problematic behavior to receive social support from professionals and specialized services so that they could really change themselves and their lives for the better. Because every child deserves human attitude”, commented Georgi Bogdanov, executive director of the National Network for Children. He urged the institutions and, above all, the Ministry of Justice, to launch the reform of the child justice system, as there is a new draft bill for more than a year now and it is important for it to enter for a discussion in the Parliament. “The childhood of these 10,000 children, which the outdated 60-years old Law affects, passes. Their life cannot go back. For them every day is important and every day without reform in child justice is one day less childhood,” added Georgi Bogdanov.
The start of the campaign brought together parents, representatives of civil organizations and professionals working with children.
During the event, a game in Ludo style (“Don’t Judge Me, Man” in Bulgarian) was presented. The board game is a metaphor of the provisions in the current Law and the inhumanity of the system.
National Network for Children conducted a social experiment and created a video on it with the participation of parents. The video shows the cruelty of the system towards “nobody’s” children.