BY R. K. RADHAKRISHNAN/The Hindu –
The U.K. Foreign Office, in its latest human rights report, prepared from the accounts of Human Rights activists, said that despite significant steps by the Sri Lankan government to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, sexual exploitation of children remained a problem.
“According to local media, in 2011 police recorded the highest number of child abuse and rape cases ever seen in Sri Lanka. Some estimates also suggested that up to 6,000 children were exploited for commercial sex. The Department of Probation and Child Care Services provided protection to child victims of abuse and sexual exploitation, but there were no comprehensive programmes to address the problem,” the report said.
There are identified centres in Sri Lanka which have been infamous for paedophilia, and enforcement has not always kept pace with the offenders, local activists who spoke to The Hindu said.
The other serious issue that the UK Human Rights Report flags is the lack of progress to bring to book LTTE members allegedly responsible for the recruitment of child soldiers. “The whereabouts of 13 children recruited by the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal during the conflict remains unknown, as does the exact number of children killed or maimed during the conflict. UNICEF’s Family Reunifications and Tracing Unit still has 600 outstanding cases of children missing from the final stages of the conflict,” it said.
The report said that the UK continued to raise these concerns, including through the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, and encouraged the Sri Lankan government to investigate allegations of violations and abuses as part of its efforts for national reconciliation.
Religious freedom in Sri Lanka
The report also lists another currently debated topic in Sri Lanka: Freedom to practice religion. It noted that people were generally free to practise their religion without interference, but religious groups “complained of onerous administrative burdens placed on certain religions, and religious education that did not take minority faiths into account.”
It highlighted a draft Act of parliament presented by a minority party, which, if passed, would provide privileged status for Buddhism in Sri Lanka. “In September, a Muslim religious site in the Buddhist city of Anuradhapura was demolished by mobs, allegedly led by Buddhist monks. There were reports of ministerial interference in religious animal sacrifice at Hindu temples,” it said.
The report concerns 2011 and hence the Dambulla incident – where mobs and some people in the garb of Buddhist monks desecrated a mosque – does not find place.