By Manel Gunasekara –
Chief Government Whip of the newly established government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka declared to Parliament that 142 incidents of rape, 42 cases of serious sexual abuse and 54 cases of child abuse have been reported from various police divisions in the country in the first 15 days of 2020.
The most recent shocking images on social media of a 6yr old girl performing oral sex on an alleged supporter of the current ruling party has sparked widespread condemnation of the silence of the authorities and several public demonstrations opposite the National Child protection Authority (NCPA)demanding justice.
A 13yr old female student from Gampaha District desperately appealed to ban the sale of canes in Sri Lanka because every class in her school has a cane, which is put to maximum use at every lesson of every day. She watched helplessly as a nine year old boy wetted himself in front of the whole school while the Teacher-in-charge for discipline took a moment to choose from six different canes from her office. That is approximately 6hrs per day equivalent of 14,400hrs of exposure to violence in a child’s life at this particular school.
Imagine the mental anguish and physical torture that children have to endure in an educational institution that is supposed to be the epitome of love and compassion; the manufacturing center of non-violent global citizens of productivity. Is there any doubt of the manufacturing defects of the product assembled at this factory?
The Rising Trend Of Physical Abuse Of Children
A Study on Child Disciplinary Methods Practiced in Schools in Sri Lanka conducted by National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) in 2017 revealed that 80.4% of students reported having experienced at least one episode of corporal punishment, 53.2% of students reported having experienced at least one episode of physical abuse and 72.5% of students reported having experienced at least one episode of psychological aggression in the past term.
This is further endorsed by the alarming rise of complaints received by NCPA. In 2010 NCPA received a total of 3892 cases and 905 were of Cruelty to children. In 2018 NCPA received a total of 7342 cases and 2413 were of Cruelty to children. Physical punishment remains the single most common form of abuse of children globally.
Since the dawn of 2020, there have been daily reports of abuse of children, some more gruesome and inhumane than the previous. We are gradually hypnotized to desensitize and dismiss these as another ordinary incident.
The Falling Trend Of Child Rights
Sri Lanka ratified the United Nations Convention of Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1992. In the concluding observations of the UNCRC on the combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of Sri
Lanka in January 2018, serious concerns were raised and in respect of which urgent measures must be taken: violence, including corporal punishment (para. 21), sexual exploitation and abuse (para. 23),economic exploitation, including child labour (para. 41), administration of juvenile justice (para. 45), and reconciliation, truth and justice (para. 47).
Although the National Action Plan for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011-2016 had big plans to eliminate Corporal Punishment in schools, actual action on the relevant issues have not materialized. In contrast, there is no mention of Corporal Punishment in the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2017-2021.
Former President, Maithripala Sirisena and current Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa both endorsed child protection on the campaign platforms but have vowed to protect teachers who use punishment as a form of discipline after gaining office.
The Vanishing Trust In Law And Justice
The failures of Police, Judiciary and Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) in protecting our children and promoting their rights have resulted in frustrating inadequacies and lengthy and painful progression of inquiries.
By the end of 2017, there were over 17,000 cases of child abuse stalled at Attorney General’s Department dating back as long as ten years. This figure is believed to have risen over 20,000 by end of 2018. The victims have lived a life of hell tormented by the horrendous memories without any hope of justice.
One family experienced unimaginable institutionalized corruption whilst exhausting every avenue to seek justice against corporal punishment and mental abuse of a child in the hands of educators.
Beddage Tushara Wickramanayaka and Adriana Lakshya Wickramanayaka Cutter (Minor) V Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka have filed the first ever Communication (Appeal) Submitted For Consideration Under the First Optional Protocol To The International Covenants on Civil And Political Rights (ICCPR) at United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC).
Their complaint has been successfully registered giving real hope to 5 million children of Sri Lanka.