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One can refer to youth-related violence as socially disregarded and violent behavior among youngsters, including children and adolescents, typically under the age of 18. In a narrow sense, youth violence is related to violent crimes that violate the legal structures of society. In a broader context, youth-related violence adopts the form of a misdemeanor. Therefore, Youth related violence assumes various manifestations; it can be separated into two different categories:

  1. Delinquency- these are the crimes that minors under the legal of full legal responsibility conduct and are dealt with by juvenile courts and state justice system; it includes actions such bullying, carrying of arms, minor assaults, etc. 
  2. Criminal actions- such crimes are dealt with by the criminal justice system; it includes battering, homicide, assault, armed robbery, alcohol abuse, etc. 

Presently, there is no single entity under whose jurisdiction tracks global youth-related violence. However, Growing sensitivity to violence is typically a feature of late modern societies and has resulted in disapproval of different forms of violence that were tolerated in the past. For instance, in 1979, Sweden declared physically punishing children by parents as punishable by law; later, many European states followed suit. 

Despite sensitization of violence, youth-related violence has been a serious concern amongst Eastern European states and is expressed by the general masses, media outlets, and politicians. While the phenomenon is highly disturbing, it also adversely impacts the quality of life within a community, disrupts social disorder, and enhances the fear of crime. Throughout the 1990’s Eastern European countries witnessed massive offensive amongst juveniles, mainly due to rapid economic and social transformation in the post-socialist space. A report by WHO suggests that Russia has one of the highest rates of youth violence in Europe; between 2004 and 2007, 16 out of every 100000 people under the age of 10 were killed in Russia. Similarly, In Poland, more than 28,000 crimes were committed by individuals under 18 in 2017 alone, depicting a significant rise than the previous years. There were more than 100 instances of battering in schools by April 2017. Therefore, Eastern Europe has witnessed a sharp increase in youth-related violence, such as physical assault, burglaries, drug abuse, murders, etc.

Causes of Juvenile violence in Eastern Europe

Youth-related violence in Eastern Europe is mainly a deliberate response to underlying conditions that prevail in society. Therefore, youth violence was not inherent to society; it was largely modeled and learned as the states evolved. 

  • Socioeconomic and political transition 

Transition in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, marked by crucial economic, social and political changes, paved the way for a rise in criminal activities. The weaknesses of social structures and state control served as a breeding ground for the emergence of youth-related crimes. Economic impoverishment and social exclusion led to relative deprivation; violence was largely related to attaining financial gains. Unfavorable socioeconomic and political circumstances can also lead to substance abuse, excessive aggression, complexes, and fears, leading to violence. For example, in Russia, the collapse of state socialism and transformation to market reforms exposed youth to income insecurity, in one form or another. In 2019, political protests, headed by Alexi Navalny, were held in Moscow, calling for the government to live up to the constitution's provisions regarding freedom of Assembly. Youth mobilization, some individuals as young as 12-13 years of age, was an important component. The flipside of these protests gives rise to extremist ideas amongst the youth who previously perceived that there is no place for them in mainstream politics. 

  • Declining demographics 

Another reason for youth-related violence in Eastern Europe is declining demographics. In most cases, it has led to the emergence of a situation whereby the government is forced to admit migrants from neighboring states to fuel manpower for the Industry. In Moscow, the entrance of ethnically deserve people in the post-soviet space is often linked with an increase in youth-related violence. This also explains violent riots in the Sakha republic and attacks on Kyrgyz immigrants, followed by a mass protest by the youngster.

  • Violence breeds violence

Youth that is likely to confront violence in their social setting often link destiny with the criminal environment. For example, in war-torn states such as Ukraine, children suffer huge losses in terms of education; institutes are destroyed or transformed into military posts. Since the beginning of the war in Donbas, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed; as the fighting persists, both sides are training their next generation to partake in combat. This includes a summer camp for young children located along the Polish border that teaches them how to handle arms and survive combat. It instills in them the ideology of hating and even killing others if the situation entails. 

Furthermore, the notion violence breeds violence is also applicable to Russia. For example, a radicalized youth group committed an assault on the Federal Security Board’s office in Archangelsk; the group deemed the attack a response to the fabrication of cases and torture of people by FSB. It was meant as a signal that such acts shall not be tolerated by the youth. 

  • Ethnic hatred

Education institutes play a central role in teaching ethnocentric accounts of history. For example, as a legacy of the 1990s war during which Serbs rose in opposition to the newly-established Croatian state, the word ‘Serb’  is considered by youngsters as an insult in Croatia. On 21st August 2019, a group of youngsters drove to the outskirts and carried out an assault against local Serbs in a bar; the incident led to the injury of 5 people, including one minor. Therefore, in some cases, youth-related violence in Europe is a part of years of state discourse against a particular group.

Implications 

Firstly, youth-related violence perpetuated by child soldiering adversely impacts the international standing of states in Eastern Europe. For instance, Russia has violated its international obligations enshrined in the Geneva Convention and the Convention on the Right of Child. Similarly, brainwashing the next generation to prepare for war will also inflict human and economic costs to the countries. Since the start of the war in 2013, Ukraine has forgone GDP, amounting to nearly 15% on average each year. Economic downturn and impoverishment, in turn, results in a high suicide rate, especially amongst youth. A report published in 2013 analyzed suicide in Eastern Europe; results revealed that Baltic states, Slavic countries, Hungary depictive the highest rates amongst the youth. The causes were largely related to social transition and economic crises. 

Secondly, the rise in youth-related violence generates a negative perception about the country’s security globally. For example, of all the countries in Europe, as of 2021, Grozny, Russia is ranked 7th most dangerous state, with the primary threat of armed assault against law enforcement agencies and personnel. This inflicts an extra cost on war-torn government are forced to spend colossal amounts to preserve safety. 

Thirdly, youth-related has negative consequences in terms of drug abuse and sexual behaviour. A report of UNICEF declared East and Central Europe as the only region where the prevalence of HIVs have not declined over the years. In 2007 alone, more can 19,000 cases of HIV were reported amongst individuals aged between 15 and 24 years. 

Lastly, youth-related violence disrupts the over social fabric of society. For example, instilling radicalism amongst the young generation in Croatia has resulted in deepening economic equality, intergenerational gaps and polarization of politics; in turn, these factors undermine social cohesions.

What can be done?  

Thus, it is established that youth-related violence has significant ramifications for the Eastern European region; individuals, states, institutes must commit tools available at their disposal to address the global problem. UN instruments indicate its preference for a social instead of judicial approach to control youth-related violence. Prevention of youth-related violence is vital to prevent all other forms of crimes prevalent in society. However, for the prevention of youth gangs effectively, both individual motivation and dynamism of groups need to be considered. Moreover, the origins of youth deprivations must be addressed; only once stability is achieved and corruption is eradicated, youth crimes are likely to end. 

However, East European states must realistically construct strategies; the following points must be considered in this regard:

  1. Utilization of community policing techniques to develop an affinity between youth and police;
  2. The states must apply an intervention involving restorative justice; it will create ‘buy in’ from victims and avoid the impact of stigmatizing for juvenile offenders;
  3. Suppression techniques must be employed to disrupt the links between youth groups and large-scale criminal syndicates. 
  4. Central to a multi-sector approach is to cooperate and coordinate efforts at all governmental levels and involve pertinent stakeholders within civil society to sustain youth-related crime prevention attempts. 
  5. Children with violent tendencies must be supported; the process should be psychological-led, intensive, and grounded in factual evidence.

Written By: Olivium's Editor


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