3 to 5 children raped daily

Child and women rights activists hit out at Govt. apathy in tackling a burning issue
By Mirudhula Thambiah

Last week a 28-year-old man from Dambulla was arrested along with an owner of a guest house and a three-wheeler driver for allegedly luring and raping a 13 year old girl. According to police the young girl had had a fight with her mother and gone to a relative’s house without telling her mother where she was going. On the way she had been picked up by a person travelling in a three wheeler before being taken to a rest house where she was raped.

The same week a 14 year-old girl from Thulaveddi, Batticaloa was allegedly sexually abused by her guardian. The suspect was arrested by police and produced before the Batticaloa Magistrates Court.
According to police the girl was having an affair with the suspect.

In Mihintale, a 14-year-old girl had allegedly been brutally raped by her father who was remanded by the Anuradhpura Magistrate till February 1, while in Mihintale a man was arrested and produced before the Theldeniya Magistrates Court for allegedly sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl.

These are just some of the cases of sexual abuse and rape of minors, released by Police headquarters, while many go unrecorded. According to Police spokesman SP Ajith Rohana, on an average police record three cases of rape and a higher number of incidences of sexual abuse, daily.

Meanwhile, children and women’s rights activists and organizations have expressed concern over the increasing incidence of abuse and rape. Executive Director, Women and Media Collective, Sepali Kottegoda, said it was an indication of the breakdown of law and order in the country, adding that the recent incident in Tangalle where a foreign woman was sexually abused was a case of extreme violence.

She said the battle against sexual abuse of women and children should not merely be the responsibility of women’s rights organizations but that of government and nongovernmental organizations too.
Visaka Dharmadasa, chairperson of the Association of War Affected Women said the problem was a burning issue that needed urgent attention, adding that perpetrators of such crimes should be punished irrespective of their rank and societal hierarchy.

According to her, five children are raped a day. She said the conflict in the north had also resulted in a high rate of sexual abuse. Hitting out hard, Mrs. Dharmadasa said the government was too lenient when taking action against perpetrators and that the whole issue of sexual abuse was not being addressed seriously enough. She said it was the duty of the government and the judiciary to take action in preventing the high incidence of sexual abuse.

“Every child, every girl in this country is a daughter of ours. Everyone, from the head of state downwards should remember this,” Mrs. Dharmadasa said.However, pointing out a positive aspect, Director Advocacy, Save the Children Menaka Kalyanaratne said there was at least more reporting on child abuse incidents, which was a good sign, since it indicated people were coming forward to report these crimes.

There is a Women and Child Desk at every police station and the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) can be contacted on a toll free hotline.According to her 90 percent of the crimes are committed by people who are supposed to be guardians of the minors, or those trusted by the children. “We have always warned children about strangers. But that is no longer valid. Now teachers, fathers, grand fathers, people who are within the community are the perpetrators of these crimes,” she said.

She said although there was a significant increase in the reportage of these acts of sexual abuse and rape, it was difficult to say whether this was an indication of improved and increased reporting or the high incidence of such crimes.

“There are systems now in place where people can report anonymously, so it is more effective. The question is whether the country has a mechanism to respond to all these cases-- what kind of legal assistance can be given or how you can speed up the process if it goes to courts. But I think what we really need to look at now is how we can prevent the incidence of child abuse,” She added.

Cyril Raj, an activist of the center for Human rights and development told the Sunday times he believed child abuse was at its peak because of the advancement of technology. Though sexually explicit sites and other links have been blocked in the country, there are ways and means of accessing them. This should be looked into.

Meanwhile, SP Ajith Rohana said after discussions with the Justice Ministry a pilot project has been introduced initially in three districts, to dispose of sexual abuse cases within three months.
“Either the convictions or the acquittal will take three months under the new system,” he said.

Education officer arrested for alleged abuse

By Indumathi Jayasena

A government education official in Hingurakgoda, was taken into custody on charges of sexually abusing two teenaged girls over a period of time.

He was produced in courts and remanded till February 8 by Hingurakgoda District Judge J Epitawala.
The suspect had first allegedly committed the offence when the girls were 12 years old. Now they are16, police said.

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