Child Rape On The Rise
By Maryam Azwer
For the month of August alone, the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) has recorded 18 reports of statutory rape through their 24 hour child abuse complaints hotline, No. 1929.
That is just the number of children and families who are brave enough to make the call.
According to Chairperson, NCPA, Anoma Dissanayake, several more rapes could be taking place across the island, which are never brought to light by the victims or their families.
“It depends on the people. Some do not want to talk about it. Most of the time, the rapist is someone known to the girl,” explained Dissanayake.
Although the NCPA was unable to provide statistics by district, the Chairperson said, “We come to know about more cases in villages. People in towns do not always come forward with complaints.”
Apart from the social stigma surrounding the issues of rape and sexual abuse of children, she said another reason people were unwilling to report such incidents was because of the lengthy legal process that would follow.
“Court proceedings are so long that they do not want to go through with it. It can take nearly 14 years to resolve some cases,’ said Dissanayake.
This factor, however, may soon be dealt with. “The Attorney General’s department is taking steps to make the procedure easier,” said Dissanayake, adding that they hoped to bring about measures by which cases would be resolved within a maximum time period of four months, and perpetrators be duly dealt with.
The Matara Rape
One recent incident that created a great deal of shock among the public was the rape of a 10 year old girl on September 3, by an air force deserter, on school premises where policemen and officials on exam duty were present. Although only one man was accused of the rape itself, police made nine arrests initially, on the grounds that the men had all been drinking together, while most of them were supposed to have been on duty.
Five of the arrested men were produced in court on September 14, after which they were further remanded until September 28.
When The Sunday Leader contacted the victim’s father last week, he said that the girl had long since been discharged from hospital, and was recovering. The distressed father, however, said that neither he nor his family wished to comment any more on the matter. This incident has shattered their lives, leaving them with the belief that what has been done cannot be undone.
Protect The Children
Following the Matara incident, the NCPA has strongly pushed for the death penalty for rapists. “Today, the NCPA, in consultation with our directors, has approved a concept paper for capital punishment for rapists,” said the NCPA Chairperson.
According to her, these issues were neglected to a great extent during the war.
“During the last 30 years, because of the war, we were only worried about safeguarding lives, we did not have time to focus on physical and sexual abuse,” she said. “Also, due to economic conditions, mothers had to go to work, and children were neglected.” Now, however, she said that the public has been encouraged to report all forms of child abuse, by calling the NCPA’s hotline telephone number 1929. “This gives people the opportunity to talk to us, and we are filing cases based on the complaints we receive,” Dissanayake said.
In the light of the number of incidents being highlighted in the media, she pointed out that there was much action that needed to be taken to protect children.
“People run children’s homes the way they want to, it is not difficult to start up a children’s home. This needs to be looked into. The law enforcement does not function properly at times and laws also need to be amended,” she pointed out.
The NCPA recorded a total of 398 child abuse cases for the month of August 2011, based on calls made to their hotline. Of these, 18 accounted for rape, 24 for grave sexual assault, and 4 for sexual harassment.
The Sunday Leader also contacted Head of Child Protection at Save the Children in Sri Lanka, Win Aye, who pointed out that an increase or decrease in the numbers of reported cases would not necessarily give a clear assessment of the gravity of the situation. “Increases in the number of cases coming to court, or the number of complaints received, could be due to better data collection and management systems or even greater awareness of the public to report cases,” she said.
“Similarly, any decreases observed may be a result of more challenging reporting procedures and processes. The bottom line is that the data does not provide a complete picture. However, the rise in cases in recent years, whether due to a rise in the actual incidence of sexual abuse or better reporting systems or increased awareness, should warrant increased attention,” Aye said.