Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga says child protection in Sri Lanka should not be politicised.
Mrs Kumaratunga said that Government authorities should resolve the child protection crisis effectively without politicising matters, by working cohesively with Non-Governmental Organizations.
“Child protection is the ultimate measurement of the level of civilization in a society and I applaud the efforts of Stop Child Cruelty Trust in establishing the Child Protection Alliance to find solutions to the current child protection crisis in Sri Lanka,” she stated.
She expressed these views at the launch of the #JustANumber Child Protection Month.
Taking a novel approach to commemorate Children’s Day, Stop Child Cruelty Trust (SCC) launched the ‘#JustANumber Child Protection Month’ to increase awareness of the fundamental rights of children through various public programmes.
One of the key objectives of this advocacy campaign is to compel the Parliament to change the Penal Code on Cruelty to Children, especially following the Supreme Court’s recognition of corporal punishment of children by schools as unlawful and a violation of a child’s right. To bolster this purpose, SCC will also join hands with like-minded Civil Society Organisations and Non-Governmental Organizations to form Sri Lanka’s first ever Child Protection Alliance.
The highlight of the virtual event was the introduction of the first initiative taken under the #JustANumber Child Protection Month – a National Art and Speech Competition. The competition aims to create a platform for children as young as 6 years up to 18 years to share their own, unique perspective on the country’s child protection crisis and encourage them to directly get involved in the decision making related to their welfare. For more details regarding the competition, please visit www.facebook.com/groups/211381800981039.
Commenting on the purpose behind the #JustANumber Child Protection Month was Chairperson of Stop Child Cruelty Trust, Dr. Tush Wickramanayaka. “Even with the unprecedented rise in child abuse on our paradise island, the relevant authorities appear to be crippled in their efforts to protect and promote our children’s rights. Child protection is a collective social responsibility and Stop Child Cruelty is fully committed to becoming the powerful force behind increasing knowledge and engagement to empower Sri Lankans across the country to recognise the child as a rights holder.”
During the past year, there were five children who were physically and sexually abused to death in Sri Lanka. Despite having signed the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) three decades ago and being the only South Asian country committed to Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 to end violence against children, the country still lacks a national child protection framework.
Addressing the event as the Chief Guest was former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga – a pioneering figure in implementing child protection legislation in Sri Lanka. After signing the UNCRC in 1991, she authorised amendments to the Penal Code 308A Cruelty to Children in 1996, established the Child Protection Authority in 1998, and approved the Ministry of Education Circular 17/2005 to ban corporal punishment in schools in 2005.
Professor Savithri Goonesekere, Emeritus Professor of Law and former Vice Chancellor at the University of Colombo was the keynote speaker at the event. As a former member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, Prof. Goonesekere has been actively contributing towards legal and policy child protection reforms. “Strengthening law enforcement by rejecting the proverbial rhetoric by relevant authorities and responding to child cruelty by engaging with children is a creative strategy and perhaps the one effective way to address Sri Lanka’s child protection crisis.”
The #JustANumber Child Protection Month will be hosting a range of events including a series of online forums that will take place every weekend from the 1st of October until the 20th of November 2021. To stay updated regarding the upcoming activities under the campaign and other events, visit www.facebook.com/stopchildcruelty. Those interested in getting involved towards the protection of children in Sri Lanka can visit www.stopchildcruelty.com or email email@example.com. (Colombo Gazette)