Draft Child Protection and Justice Bill has been finalised

A draft Child Protection and Justice Bill, which proposes to repeal certain parts of the Children and Young Persons Ordinance and ensure Sri Lanka’s conformity with international standards pertaining to the best interest of the child, has been finalised.

Among many other progressive reforms, the Bill envisages to provide special protections to children who are in conflict with the law and children in need of care and protection.

Mrs. Chandrani Senaratne, Secretary to the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs of Sri Lanka said this while making a statement on behalf of Sri Lanka when the 5th and 6th Periodic Reports of Sri Lanka were considered at the 77th Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) at the Palais Wilson in Geneva.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is meeting in Geneva from 15 January to 2 February to review children’s rights in several countries, including Sri Lanka. The reports on Sri Lanka were considered yesterday and today.

Speaking here, Mrs. Chandrani Senaratne said that the Government has adopted and is in the process of implementing a number of policies and action plans seeking to implement different areas of work pertaining to the rights of the child.

These include the National Human Rights Action Plan (2017-2021) which contains a separate chapter on the Rights of the Child and the implementation of which is being monitored by a high-level Inter-Ministerial Committee chaired by the Prime Minister, a Policy Framework and National Plan of Action to address Sexual and Gender based Violence (2016-2020) which also contains a separate segment on addressing violence against children and has already been included in the medium term budgetary framework of the Government and a National Plan of Action for Children (2016-2020).

The implementation of these policies and action plans enjoys patronage and commitment at the highest level of the Government, with the President himself having appointed a Special Task Force on the Protection of Children and involves the active participation of the civil society and community based organizations.

In recognition of the need to ensure that the implementation of this multitude of Government plans is effectively
coordinated and synchronized, the President has also appointed a National Monitoring Committee (NMC) in 2017, and this Committee has already concluded its second meeting.

“We believe that this Committee will serve as a vital platform for all government agencies to streamline their work on the
implementation of the CRC and help improve our reporting and monitoring framework through a platform that would assist government agencies to track their progress. We also have taken necessary steps to translate the CRC into vernacular languages as part of awareness programmes. We look forward to recommendations from the CRC Committee on how we can further strengthen the work of the NMC,” she said.

She also said that the Government maintains a zero-tolerance policy regarding cases of violence against children and is committed to bring perpetrators to justice as expeditiously as possible.

“While adequate laws have been put in place, at the level of implementation, 42 children’s and Women’s bureaus have established at police stations across the country look into complaints pertaining to children. The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) also accepts public complaints on child abuse and channels such complaints to law enforcement agencies. A toll free child help line functioning under the NCPA receives complaints and forwards them for investigation through the police unit attached to NCPA, the child protection officers attached to the Divisional Secretariats, and through the units of children and women’s bureaus at police stations. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has also established a separate unit to investigate direct complaints received through the public relating to children. A key milestone for Sri
Lanka in this regard was our joining the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children as Pathfinder Country in 2017, as the first country in South Asia and one of 13 countries globally to do so,” Chandrani Senaratne said.

However, she said it must be acknowledged that a comprehensive system for the collection and updating of data pertaining to incidents of violence against children disaggregated by different areas, categories of victims and suspects, etc. is still in the process of being developed. (Colombo Gazette)