The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) receives an average of 60 to 70 complains of child abuse at present, the Authority confirms. Speaking to the Nation, an NCPA official said that this was due to the public’s sensitivity to child abuse, following the brutal abuse and murder of the 5 year old girl from Kotadeniyawa.
“Even though the number of complaints is high, these complaints are often made on grounds of child cruelty rather than abuse” Assistant Manager of Planning and Information Ediriweera Gunasekara said. Asked if these numbers signify a recent surge in child abuse he said that this was unlikely. “The awareness among the public is greater now. Those who were reluctant to report cases of child abuse are now coming forward” Gunasekara said.
According to their data, a total number of 10,315 cases of child abuse were reported to the NCPA last year. However the total number of child abuse cases reported as at 11 September this year remains at 6499.
“There is a visible decline in reports of child abuse, however I personally believe that the nature of abuse and crimes committed against children are growing to be disturbingly heinous. Earlier perpetrators would abuse the child and do no harm beyond that. Now children are often murdered after being abused” Gunasekara explained.
Gunasekara noted that crimes are aggravated when the country’s law fails to act as necessary. Some cases of child abuse being heard in courts can even take up to 8 years to deliver the verdict with the present judicial system, according to Gunasekara.
When the NCPA receives a complaint, it is referred to the Attorney General’s Department for recommendations, only after which the NCPA can file a case on behalf of the victim. According to the NCPA there are more than 4000 such cases of child abuse being heard at present.
“At present, there is a large backlog of cases stuck in the High Court and Attorney General’s Department. If the victims are to be assured justice, we need a fast-track court system at the High court level where cases of child abuse are tried expeditiously” Gunasekara said.
He added that in order to address the shortfalls of the judiciary system, a proposal to establish additional High Courts in every province, providing additional resources to the Attorney General’s Department, has been presented to the government by the NCPA Chairperson Natasha Balendra.