Child abuse in Sri Lanka

| by Sarath Wijesinghe

( July 25, 2012, UAE, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is true but sad that there appears to be an increasing trend in Child Abuse in Sri Lanka on media. This unfortunately is a sudden development - may be due to media exposure or any other socio economic factors. Child in Sri Lankan society has been considered precious protected and venerated. Parents in Sri Lanka make the supreme sacrifices for the sake of children because they invest on the education of children rather than accumulating wealth for them as has been done previously.

"Child protection laws in Sri Lanka
are stringent and effective though
some officers are arrogant and
corrupt. Security officers, law
enforcement agencies and the
public has lot more to do."
More often they sell family silver for the education of their loved ones as their future ambitions are aimed at the education and development of children. They invest on children rather than saving on property or other wealth. Child is protected as a golden lotus flower as the pride and future hope of the family. Today substantial income of the family is consumed for the education- tuition and other expenditure on the wellbeing of the children. Though Education from kindergarten to University is free on paper, there are undisclosed and unlimited expenditure throughout the system of education. For both poor and rich child is precious and consider child’s future paramount. Parent children bond has been strong and both looked after each other at every stage of their life. Generally elderly parents in Sri Lanka are well looked after by the children unlike many cultures where parents are confined to homes of elders. Are we distancing away from our long cherished values in our culture of thousands of years? whether parent children bond diminishing is a moot issue. Are the incidents reported in media on child abuse remote and isolated rather than endemic and epidemic? Any event the news on the media on child abuse and sensational and senseless murders are disturbing. Is it a case where some take law into their own losing confidence on the law enforcement agencies? It is time to look into all aspects of possible causes of the cancerous trend.

Children are wonderful and innocent. They make the world a beautiful place. According to the definition of the United Nation’s Convention on Rights, a child is a human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child.

Due to the immaturity and innocent nature they can be persuaded to take part in immoral activities and many such instances they are forced or cheated mostly by persons known or close to the family. Previously most cases may have gone unreported due to social stigma or lack of awareness. Today awareness is more and the state is vigilant and proactive on curbing the menace. Today reported cases are alarmingly high and it is time to take precautionary measures as a matter of urgency. This has become a common feature in other parts of the world too. Daily 36000 children die of malnutrition and other untraditional factors. Brazil, India, Philippine and many African and Asian countries are vulnerable to child abouse. West is no exception. Unfortunately we too are in news now.

Child protection laws in Sri Lanka are stringent and effective though some officers are arrogant and corrupt. Security officers, law enforcement agencies and the public has lot more to do. Obviously security apparatus may be running with lack of resources considering the sudden rise of the child abuse and murder cases. Whether the law and procedure are applied properly is a moot issue. Law or the law enforcement agencies alone may not be able to sail against this wild tide. Is there a disturbing and upward trend on child abuse and double murders in this peaceful and beautiful island famous for hospitality toward foreigners, full of temples, sermons throughout the day and “Pirith” chanting to bless the people via media day and night? Murders are of mini “Colorado” style an caused by mentally imbalanced people. These trend spread electronically due to ripple effects of news items freely available on printed and electronic media inviting unknown innocent and immature citizens of the horrendous incidents which are grossly exaggerated inhuman in the case o double murders. Those who are responsible such as Religious Dignitaries, sociologists, so called NGO’s clamoring for human rights appear not concerned on these vulnerable angles in troubled waters! Media, especially two popular Sinhala news papers enjoy and make use of “Juicy” publicity to sell the paper not realizing the damage caused long and short term on our future generation. I invite you to read the last pages of the papers daily on reports on Child Abuse, Rape and Murders. One suspect had confessed to police that he committed the murder for the “Kick” and “just” to explore. This is disturbing.

Gobble’s theory is once the same repeats again and again it becomes truth and reality! Almost every day one can repeatedly read this news in particular and peculiar pages of the printed media. Is it done purposely to increase the sale and there is a part of the community waiting for such news. It is time printed media enforces a self discipline and constrains for the sake and protection of the future generation and murder victims. We greatly appreciate and congratulate the timely intervention of His Excellency on this debate giving productive directions to the main stakeholders who can lead the campaign to curb this menace.


“Everyone has a responsibility to protect children. It is a national task. Development will be of no use without protecting the future generation. In this regard parents have to play a vital role. They have to have a keen eye on this child and prevent from engaging in mischievous activities”(Mahinda Chinthana)

It is salutary that the President has taken remedial measures to the dangerous trend which needed to be eradicated at the initial stages. It is time the elders in the villages and townships launch a long and a short strategy to counter the menace through an organized and consortium working arrangements with the head of the temple or the religious organization, and the persons concerned with the help of the parents and concerned citizens. It is now time for the leaders and those concerned to take quick and proactive steps in combating this menace before it spreads uncontrolled.

It is indeed a national task to take these culprits to task who are directly and indirectly involved and benefited in the scam. Websites should be regulated and media is to be controlled to be fair and reasonable not only aiming to accumulate wealth. It should be a centralized and a consorted affect of government private partnership to free these vulnerable and innocent angles waiting to take the future over. Steps taken by Hon Namal Rajapaksa for the setting up of a Presidential task force on the issue too is in the right direction.

Sri Lanka was famous for great culture, fine family and religious values. Respect and obedience to parents, elders, religious dignitaries, family values and bonds were embodied and in abundance in the Sri Lankan family culture. More often members of family make supreme sacrifices to the members of family for their education and marriage. Some go abroad for employment for the sake of other members of the family sacrificing their future. They have wonderful and innocent ambitions - to build a house for the family, to educate the members of the family. This shows the family bond and love towards each other, which has been the village culture. Ironically most victims are village based and families are vulnerable due to the absence of both parents and one of them employed out of the country. Father or mother is compelled to give the custody of the child to a trusted relation or a friend who more often betray the trust whereby the children are victims and vulnerable.

News in some media is disturbing and unbelievably horrifying. It is not the kind and type of news we have heard or read at all. Child abuse by close family friends, relations, elders and members of the family were never heard of in elders and our dictionary. Murders in pairs are equally horrifying and disturbing. The answer is with social scientists, law enforcement agencies and those interested in social activism.

The trend could be a collection of various factors known and unknown. But it is time to go back to the root cause for a solution before it is out of control. Unregulated television episodes may be a main contributory factor for the disturbances of the children countrywide and elders who are addicted on every evening on various episodes on family disputes, unusual love affairs and stories not suitable for the society to maintain our great culture and values, and family bonds. These episodes are a menace in the western world as well and steps are being taken to control and force producers to reform to promote good will culture and family values. There is a famous joke that there are five most notorious women in Sri Lanka and name the five most popular TV episodes, which spreads harmful family values, examples and misdirection to the elders and the children. TV today has become an effective media and a sizable portion of the population is addicted to it.

Unregulated sexy websites freely available countrywide arouse sexual feelings of elders as well as school children. IT has so developed that even in a remote village the sex images are freely available, especially on the mobile phones which almost every citizen possess. Communication centers near schools for children and other centers for elders are freely available which is a dangerous sign coupled with drug menace and liquor. Porn websites are emerging as ants as there are thousands of sites freely invading the young generation. Combination of pornography and drugs is dangerous. If one studies carefully the case and other records, sexual abuse is always connected to sexual images. It is time for academics to do a thorough study on this subject in the interest of the future generation. Definitely there is a connection between the horrifying trend and unregulated sex images freely available. Though it says that it is banned, it is not effective. Anybody small or mature has free access to thousands of porn websites. This is time for the telecommunication experts local and abroad to assist the government to curb this menace. It is salutary that the government has taken measures to control and curb unregulated, illegal and immoral websites. Whether the existing teeth is sufficient against the strong influx of rivers of web related materials is a matter to be considered seriously.

Tuition culture is a main vehicle for the transmission of porn and other illegal sites. Vultures are hawking around schools for the sale of illegal drug related sweets and tablets, and encourages the children to be used as future customers. Trishaws, some guest houses too are in the ring supplying porn, drugs and other requirements for students who finds time in the guise of tuition. Tuition classes are to be regulated and discourage and the law enforcement agencies should be more vigilant and stringent.

Etisalat Mobile giant which has a branch in Sri Lanka too has the monopoly in the UAE on telecom where all the illegal sites are completely banned. No one can access the porn connected sites in UAE. Child abusers are severely dealt with and the children are in safe hands. I think it is time for us too to follow good examples of other countries learning form our bitter experiences.

In many sexual and mass murders some kind of political connections are frequent giving suspicion that the culprits are hoping to obtain shelter if caught. This goes deep into the enforcement of the law and order and the efficiency and trust on the agencies. It is time for a complete transformation on the enforcement procedure based on reforms and forward looking confidence building. The law enforcement agencies should be impartial, efficient, honest and dedicated. It is true that it is hard to find officers with all the requirements. But there is no alternative but to look for the best officers for the job.

Media has to be restrained and made to play a major role in combating this menace. Some news papers publish “Juicy” news to attract that segment of the society waiting for news they wish to read and hear. This is a dangerous trend. There is a ripple effect on the minds of mischief makers on this sensational and low level news lines to test by themselves, especially those who are duped with web information and bad association. There are two specific news papers which give top prominence in special columns on Child Abuse, Rape and Mass murders. What is happening in USA on mass murders have links with publicity and it is time for the social scientists and professionals with law enforcement agencies to a quick research on this aspect before this issue becomes endemic.

Most incidents are reported from remote villages and disturbed families, with no father, mother and mostly a member of the family is abroad on employment. To the Credit to the foreign employment bureau, stringent measures have been taken to prevent mothers leaving their children for employment and it is heartening to note that steps will be taken to make it more difficult for mothers to go abroad leaving children with the rest of the family or with relations and friends. There are stories that the hard earned money sent to the spouse is busted up for drinking, gambling and other vices.

The Temple, Kovil, Church, Gramasevaka, police and the School have a duty to work together forming committees to counter this menace as a matter of urgency. It has to be an effective and continuous programme with the leaders of the community, religious dignitaries and law enforcement agencies.

It is definitely true that the major developments that are taking place today will be of no use unless the children are safe educated and make good children to take over the reins of the next generation to manage the future of the Nation to be the wonder of Asia.