Child Abuse On The Rise
By Niranjala Ariyawansha
The Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission Dr Prathiba Mahanama Hewa confirms that 2,500 child abuse cases have been reported between the 1st of January 2010 and 1st July 2012. He further confirmed that this figure is derived from the number of complaints made to the Police but added that it would be much higher as many such cases are never reported. The majority of these reported were from the Western province.
The Human Rights Commissioner said that at a minimum 3 to 4 cases are reported per day.
In 2007 the parliament approved the Civil and Political Rights Bill. Through that bill a path was made to ensure the cases into child abuse would be heard through a higher court. In 1980 Sri Lanka became a signatory to the United Nations protocol on Civic and Political Rights. By 1995 the Penal Code in Sri Lanka was amended to recognize these offences.
The Human Rights Commissioner observed that despite the laws being in place, Women and Childrens Organisations both government and non government being proactive child abuse was on the rise in Sri Lanka. he felt that the laws should be used to curb this trend.
The Human Rights Commission has planned a series of work shops to educate the public on child abuse. As a first step it planned to involve Government Servants, Justices of Peace, Police Officers from the Women and Childrens Units, and the intelligentsia to a discussion. Thereafter a house to house campaign to bring about public awareness is planned.
The intention of this is to bring about an awareness that all such cases be reported to the Police. The other is to dispel the myth of social stigma the victim and the family would be subject to which in fact causes the increase in such crimes.
The Commissioner Prathiba Mahanama Yapa states that though sections of the public insists on the death penalty for such offenses it would not be the answer.
Meanwhile, Kamalini de Silva, Secretary to the Ministry of Justice stated that separate courts would be opened to hear child abuse cases in order to speed up the hearings.
The Minister of Justice Rauff Hakeem elaborated, “We have made a decision to have separate courts to hear such cases. The current court houses do not conform to a conducive environment for children to appear. We have in fact identified a building to house such a court. I feel the Labour Court opposite the Law College is suitable.” He felt that the Police Reports were not indicative of the total picture. “When under-aged boys and girls act against the law but do so after a romantic relationship, it must not be taken purely as a case of child abuse. One has to take out such incidents out of the register when compiling data. However I admit that child abuse is on the rise” the Minister added.
The Minister too felt that the death penalty was not an answer to curb child abuse.