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Every mother’s most treasured possession is her child. A child invokes joy. A gentle smile from an innocent kid can enhance your day. Our children are the wealth of the nation and our future. A closer look at some segments of children will sadly show a startling contrast to the rainbow painted by some.

To many adults, child abuse would only mean the sexual violation of a minor. This is the tip of an iceberg that has lain dormant in our self-righteous society. A nation that has a heritage of being influenced by four religions. Then how come there is a rise in incidents involving the sadistic rape and murder of children? Cases where fathers have intercourse with prepubescent daughters? Bizarre events when grandfathers engage in lustful acts with the granddaughter entrusted to be taken to Montessori? These adults are sexually deviant monsters in the privacy of their concealed homes.

As we all know the UN Convention on Children states that anyone 18 years and under is a child. To many the sentiment stops there. Today child abuse takes many forms. Firstly, it happens within the own family. Emotional abuse. Often a helpless kid is forced to watch the parents argue and fight. This leads to distrust of adults by the child. In some homes, one parent is not present and the child will either lack the role model of a father or mother. Research now shows that such children, as married adults have a tendency to abandon their own children or are adults who refuse to get married as their image of marriage is very uncertain. Hence the cycle continues. To complicate this issue such a child may end in a foster care home and get abused in many ways.

A common feature we witness is parents going to work in Middle East nations. They make genuine sacrifice due to poverty. Back in the rural villages, their children are easy prey for marauding uncles. They are subject to repeated acts of sodomization. Such children have none to confide in, and there were cases when schoolteachers with predatory minds took hold of these children for a second session of abuse. Mentally-retarded teenagers are also subject to sexual abuse by staff of some institutions.

Another form of abuse, often vehemently denied is child prostitution. It takes place in a very organized manner from the exotic beaches of Hikkaduwwa to Beruwela. Sadly, this is one of the reasons many ‘senior’ tourists are loyal guests to Sri Lanka. The highest dollars go for the tender virgins. On the same note, it is now coming to light that children in the once war-ravaged districts of Mullaithivu and Killinochchi are also being forced into sex-oriented income from families living in poverty. These children live with widowed mothers who also engage in ‘part time’ prostitution. These children need counseling and loads of love.

Perhaps the oldest form of ‘dignified abuse’ takes place when children between 16 and 18 are employed as servants. It is funny that some call their servants by the posh tag ‘domestic aide’ whilst that poor underage girl does all the chores and then satisfies the Master on the weekends when Madame is shopping in Dubai. Parents must take due care of their children. They should monitor ongoing behavior in children that suddenly differs, with the help of dedicated school- teachers and respected clergy. Things related to puberty and sex must be discussed in detail.

The child must have the confidence to share anything that is contrary to normal relationships with any adult. In western countries, many of the convicted serial killers were once helpless children who suffered untold abuse, building inside them an anti social resentment. Many agencies are dedicated to ending child abuse, yet there is much to be done. All agencies related to child welfare and protection, the Police and Judiciary are major stakeholders in controlling and eliminating child abuse.