Mrs. Chandrani Bandara, the Minister of Women’s and Child Affairs, has stated that action has been initiated by her Ministry to ensure that incidents of rape and murder of children as the one that took place at Kotadeniyawa will not be repeated. Her efforts must be supported and appreciated by all citizens.
However, the Chairperson, the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), Dr. Natasha Balendra and Deputy Chairman Sajeewa Samaranayake have admitted that under the present legal system, court cases relating to child abuse take eight to 10 years for prosecution. As a result, offenders do not receive due and summary punishment until long after the crime. Further, the punishment does not amount to even 10 years imprisonment.
The NCPA made the startling disclosure that there were over 4,000 cases of child abuse pending in the courts. This would mean that a large number of persons accused of child abuse are roaming free in the country. The eight to 10 year delay in prosecution was highlighted by the NCPA. The NCPA has received 6,499 child- related complaints during 2015. The highest number of cases (906) were from Colombo District, followed by 688 from Gampaha and 488 from Kurunegala. With regard to the type of abuse, the highest numbers of 1,383 complaints are related to cruelty to children. 254 complaints related to rape while another 184 were categorized as grave sexual abuse.
Children are ignorant of the pitfalls in our society. As parents, we do not wish to see or even hear of the incidents taking place in society today. The law has become a mere set of words that does not prevent the activities of criminals by deterrent punishment.
According to the statistics available from the Registrar General’s Department, leading causes of injury related deaths in the under 16 age group are, asphyxiation (37.9%), transport accidents (18.9%), drowning (18.3%), poisoning (11.7%), and snake bites (4.4%). Asphyxiation was responsible for 90 percent of deaths while transport accidents and burn injuries contributed to 4 percent of deaths each.
In addition, every year 206,000 children under 16 are admitted to hospitals due to injuries. This is one fifth of all admissions of the same age group. The NCPA which is a main stakeholder in protecting children and they certainly carry out programs to ensure the child’s right to life and their healthy development. The NCPA carries out awareness raising programs and educate families on the importance of safety and security at home and other places where children frequent.
Some incidents that took place last month in our country, where children faced grave situations:
1. A four-year-old boy was killed when the three-wheeler in which he and his mother were travelling met with an accident.
2. A seven-year old who was thrown out of the van in which she was travelling to school died on the spot.
3. A two and a half year old girl died after falling into a deep water tank at an orphanage.
4. A four-year-old girl was killed in an accident at Gokarella.
5. A five-year-old girl was sexually abused and strangled to death in Divulapitiya.
6. An eight-year-old girl has been sexually assaulted and killed in Akmeemana.
7. A nine-year-old girl was killed after an earth embankment collapsed on her in Nawalapitiya.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Safety and security don’t just happen. They are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”