Child Affairs Minister urged to wake up and get tough

Women and Child Affairs Minister Chandrani Bandara Jayasinghe has been urged to wake up and take immediate action to empower child protection authorities to do their job effectively.

The Mass Movement for Social Justice (MMSJ) staged a protest in front of the Women and Child Affairs Ministry on Monday and demanded action.

In the past few months, a series of child abuse incidents have been reported in the media from around the island.

Although only the most gruesome cases grab media attention, and therefore the attention of the general public, Sri Lanka’s child protection system has been sliding into inefficiency for over a decade.

According to the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), a staggering 9014 child abuse cases were reported from around the country in 2017. Among them, 340 were incidents of child rape, and 309 were incidents of grave child abuse. This is a 131% increase compared to 2010. Meanwhile, Police Department statistics reveal that there has not been a single Court conviction for child sex abuse in 2017.

“Although the alarming increase might be due to better reportage, it can no longer be ignored that our children are not safe, and that State authorities are failing to live up to their responsibilities. Inaction, negligence, and bureaucracy of child protection institutions delay justice. Therefore, abusers have been enjoying impunity to destroy the lives of our youth,” MMSJ said.

In the past few months, many cases reveal the direct involvement of politically powerful individuals in the abuse children.

However, public scrutiny over these cases fades away within weeks, leaving victims and their families alone in their struggle. Institutions with the power to protect children have been ignored by consecutive governments, leaving them underfunded, understaffed, and marred in corruption, scandal and bureaucratic inefficiency.

Many cases that MMSJ has been following in the past months indicate that the NCPA and other State authorities are not using all their powers to prevent the abuse of children. Children from low-income families have to depend on the State for justice. But many victims of child sex abuse, and their parents, are afraid to report to the authorities because of low rates of conviction and the stigma attached to abuse.

MMSJ has observed that community action and constant vigilance over crimes against children is the most effective measure the public can take to ensure that State authorities perform their duty to punish abusers and prevent the recurrence of such heinous crimes against children. (Colombo Gazette)

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