“Children need peace and protection at all times. The rules of war prohibit the unlawful targeting of civilians, attacks on schools or hospitals, the use, recruitment and unlawful detention of children, and the denial of humanitarian assistance. When conflicts break out, these rules need to be respected and those who break them need to be held to account. Enough is enough. Stop attacks on children.” — UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore
The United Nations (UN) International Day of Innocent Children-Victims of Aggression is observed on June 4 each year. Its purpose is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children, who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse and affirms the UN’s commitment to protect the rights of children the world over.
In 1997 the General Assembly adopted Resolution 51/77 on the Rights of the Child. It was a landmark development in efforts to improve the protection of children in conflict situations.
It signalled the start of a new consensus among Member States, on the need for dedicated attention, advocacy and coordinated effort, by the international community, to address the particular vulnerabilities and violations faced by children in conflict-related situations, the UN says.
The International Day of Innocent Children-Victims of Aggression also celebrates the millions of individuals and organizations working to protect and preserve the rights of children. For example, the Global Movement for Children, with leadership from Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel acting as an inspiring force for change that involves ordinary people and families worldwide.
The UN says, this day is a time for individuals and organizations the world over to become aware of the impact of monstrosity of abuse, in all its forms, against children and a time when organizations and individuals learn from or take part in awareness campaigns centred on protecting children’s rights.
It says, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides us with the universal master plan to secure a better future for children and for the first time includes a specific target (16.2) to end all forms of violence against children, and ending the abuse, neglect and exploitation of children.
Turning the searchlight on Sri Lanka, The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) says it receives thousands of complaints of child abuse annually. They include those on cruelty, deprivation of compulsory education, sexual harassment and molestation, rape and child neglect.
Among the several media reports of child abuse, we highlight a few due to space restraints; one was that of a father throwing his two children to the Nilwala Ganga but fortunately their lives were saved by some soldiers who were in the vicinity. Then there was the case of a mother jumping into a river at Valaichchenai with her two children aged three and seven. In this case the mother was saved but the children drowned. Then we heard of a drunken father bashing his child or other cases of children being burnt by cigarette butts.
It is sad when you consider that in all these cases the children, often from poverty-stricken homes and broken families, are the most vulnerable to abuse by adults, whom they trusted to protect them.
Amid this gloom comes the beacon of light when taking into account the work carried out by the SOS Children’s Villages in Sri Lanka and those of the Sisters of Charity founded by Mother Teresa also known as the Saint of Calcutta and Sri Lanka’s Sister Rita of Marc Sri. With selfless care and sacrificial service they provide a loving home to children and the elderly, the abandoned, orphaned or badly ill, some even at the point of death.
Meanwhile, we conclude this column by highlighting a subtle form of aggression the innocent children and their parents have to undergo when it comes to finding a proper school resulting in mental agony, stress and trauma. In foreign countries we have come across several instances of schools canvassing for prospective students, advertising and showcasing the facilities they have to offer to those seeking admission to whatever the grade may be. But unfortunately in Sri Lanka, school admission is such a complicated and detestable experience including the exorbitant ‘donations’ parents are compelled to pay.
What better Day than this, when the United Nations’ (UN) marks International Day of Innocent Children-Victims of Aggression, to urge the Education Minister and the relevant authorities to save innocent children from having to undergo such devious forms of aggression when it comes to school admission. There is no gainsaying the fact that children are our future and deserve a better deal in their search for a place in the sun. Let not a life of uncertainty their destiny be.