By Sunila Mendis
Senior Assistant Secretary to former President C. B Kumaratunga
As a senior citizen of this country I am alarmed at the statistics revealed by the Police Department that claim 900 rape cases within six months of this year, out of which 700 are of children.
Statements made by the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) and certain other authorities give the impression that this problem is difficult to resolve or diverse. Government agencies are “passing the buck” from one to the other.
I wish to state that there was a period when the problem of sexual abuse of children and women was confronted with courage, achieving remarkable success in reducing the incidents of sexual abuse.
In the early 1990s this problem centred on foreigners (pedophiles) prying on children living along the coastal belt.
In 1994, when Sri Lanka’s first female President was elected the issue of rape and sexual molestation of children became a priority area in Government Policy. This resulted in the amendment of the Penal Code by Act No. 22/1995 with enhanced punishments for those found guilty. It particularly strengthened the law relating to sexual offences and offences against children.
The Compulsory Education Act was enacted in 1998 to keep the children at school, until they finished their secondary education.
After some discussion a Presidential Task Force was appointed in December 1996, with a mandate to study the problem in depth and report on the issue of the sexual abuse of young children travelling in school vans. After deliberating with stake holders such as the clergy, political activists, school Principals and social activists engaged in work with children the Task Force recommended the establishment of a national mechanism to implement the requirements of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. This was the first time that high level political recognition was given to prevent and control the growing prevalence of child abuse which includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
The recommendations of the Task Force led to the establishment of the National Child Protection Authority by President Chandrika Kumaratunga by parliamentary Act No.50/1998.
Prof. Harendra de Silva, Professor of Pediatrics at Ragama Hospital was appointed by the President as the first Chairman of the NCPA. Besides him were professionals in the relevant fields along with the JMO, Deputy Solicitor General, Dr. Hiranthi Wijemanne from the UNICEF and DIG crimes on the Board of Management.
Due to the importance attached to this issue it was brought as a subject under the President, coordinated by the President’s Office. The fact that it enjoyed the privilege of being under the President’s Office it obtained the necessary authority to deal with all relevant ministries such as Ministries of Social Welfare, Justice, Health, Education, Defence as well as the Attorney General’s Department and law enforcement Authorities.
The NCPA had its own police unit which began tracking with the help of the units in Police Stations and taking to courts people accused of sexual abuse of children no matter who they were.
At this time I remember two incidents of a senior legal officer who allegedly molested his four-year-old, as well as the sexual molestation of a teenager by a Provincial councilor which were both probed and charges framed and convictions meted out to the accused. Another convicted case was the physical abuse of a domestic helper.
The latter happened to be a relative of the President. Since all the cases involved high profile persons, there was much pressure brought on the President to intervene in the judicial procedure and save the culprits.
But she stood by her policy that wrong doers should be punished irrespective of their social status in society. Thus the law took its normal course.
The good work done by the NCPA attracted financial support from donor agencies. The NCPA networked with the Foreign and Sri Lankan Embassies, International agencies and the Interpol. As a result the Authority was able to nab foreign paedophiles.
Prof Harendra had a master minded plan to track down pedophiles who approached Sri Lankan boys for sexual activities and they were prosecuted in Sri Lanka by the Attorney Generals Dept successfully also some cases were prosecuted in overseas with the collaboration of Crown prosecution Departments of those countries Prof him self with his colleges presented evidence even in courts abroad ( UK) for the successful of those convictions .. Unfortunately after he left the NCPA such type of detections were not continued and the Cyber watch monitoring unit was not operated . The success of the investigations and detections were mainly depended on correct monitoring and the non intervention in to investigations hence the investigators were at the liberty to carry out their investigations impartiality and had plans of action for the investigations The current officials of NCPA should be sought advise from them how to minimize offenses of child abuse at this juncture
wijesena withana Tuesday, 28 August 2012 04:41 AM
I wish to add furthermore that our existing law is quite sufficient to deal with the crisis . The needful is implementation of the law properly and law enforcement officers should be given proper guidance by the superiors
Fair N Square Tuesday, 28 August 2012 05:43 PM
wonder why its all about women.. does anyone care about males being abused. I know of a few who are helplessly living coz of shame. and being abused by their wives.. ppl need to think outside the box. yes these females are highly paid professionals who earn more than the husbands..sadly the case...
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