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Eradicate child abuse

2014 May 27

Incidence of child abuse in Sri Lanka has risen by tremendous proportions over the years despite the efforts of the authorities to stem this scourge, which on the one hand robs the future of our children while on the other helps portray the country in a negative manner in the eyes of the world. Though child abuse in its many forms takes place all over the world, the majority of these cases relate to sexual abuse of children especially underage girls.
Answering an oral question raised by a lady legislator recently, the Chief Government Whip had informed Parliament that, on an average, 17 cases of child abuse had been reported on a daily basis in recent times. Figures read out by him showed that child abuse cases that stood at 3,276 in 2008 had risen to 6,070 in 2012 making a grand total of 20,840 cases reported over the five-year period.
Given that these are figures available with the Child Protection Authority, there is no reason to doubt its authenticity. The situation however, prompts one to ask why there has been such a shocking increase in the number of child abuse cases in the country and whether it is due to the low depths of depravity that society has descended to, or whether it is the lack of laws with deterrent punishments to prevent such abuses from continuing.
It is common knowledge that though the law has been quick to reach up to other forms of child abuse such as the employment of underage children for menial work and other dangerous operations, verbal abuse, harassment of children, cruelty and so on, it has been slow in standing up for the rights of children in instances of sexual abuse, rape and incest.
The many studies carried out on child abuse have attributed poverty as a major factor contributing to the increase in the number of such offences, although other factors such as mothers being away from home for employment and so on, also contributed generously to the increase in the number of such cases.
As the majority of the 1.7 million Sri Lankan nationals who work abroad are women, the children of these families are left in the charge of grandparents, relatives and family friends, which increase the chances of the children being exposed to abuse. Factors such as alcoholism, broken families, and breaking down of bonds between parents and children too have been cited as instances that provide the ideal ground for sexual abuse of children.
The government's recent ban on mothers with children less than five years of age leaving for foreign employment has been resented by the mothers themselves, with organizations working for women's liberation too criticizing the move as unreasonable on the grounds that these mothers go abroad to earn money to provide a better life for their families. They have argued that if the ban is to be enforced properly, there should be a system to empower these women to earn a proper wage here.
However that be, there is no denial that several factors such as laws delays, the difficulty in reporting the cases due to social inhibitions, contribute to the proliferation of child abuse in the country. But today it has become a national malaise with all and sundry, especially politically connected persons committing child abuse with impunity and also making it difficult for the aggrieved parties to make a complaint to the police.
This is an urgent problem that the powers that be need have the will to tackle, for in the absence of which child abuse will thrive unhindered, robbing our children of their future and also portraying the country as a place where child abuse is tolerated. As a country that boasts of a great civilization, culture and religious traditions, Sri Lanka needs the political will to stem child abuse.
The fact that 17 cases of child abuse are reported to the authorities on a daily basis should prod the authorities to bring in stricter laws with enhanced punishments, to tackle this social malaise.

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