Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is facing a nationwide crisis of child abuse. The reports on child abuse, neglect and exploitation are increasing in Sri Lanka as well.

by Dr W. A. Wijesinghe

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) as “the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child Sexual Abuse Is a serious problem of considerable magnitude and it has profound consequences for the child. It is known to interfere with growth and development and has also been linked to numerous maladaptive health behaviours, and poor social, mental and physical health outcomes throughout the lifespan. According to a survey, 90% of people sexually exploiting children are known to the children or are people whom the children trust.

Recently the Police arrested an English teacher on charges of sexually abusing children. He had been identified as a set designer for a children’s reality show on television in addition to being an English teacher. The 54-year-old suspect, Nirantha Edirisinghe, was arrested by the Kollupitiya Police following a tip-off that underage boys were being sexually abused. The offender allegedly sold video footage of him abusing these children to foreign clients. When he was apprehended, the Police seized 135 CDs of such footage, a pen-drive, hard disk, memory card, camera and mobile phones from his house According to the investigations Nirantha Edirisinghe was doing this illegal business with the help of a Sri Lankan Australian named XXX ( name withheld). The investigators believe that Jayasinhelage Upul Hewa who is living in Adelaide Australia distributed child pornography videos. Nirantha Edirisinghe has been charged with making child pornography, sexual assault, possession of child pornography, and distributing child pornography.

Sri Lanka is facing a nationwide crisis of child abuse. The reports on child abuse, neglect and exploitation are increasing in Sri Lanka as well. According to the figures tabled in the Sri Lankan Parliament in April 2013, there are about 15,000 legal trials pending Nationwide and more than 4,000 (27%) involve some form of violence towards a child..Parents of sexually abused children are scared to tell anyone due to fear of being shamed in society. A recent Audit Report by the National Audit Office said that 42,073 complaints (53%) had not been resolved. The report further said that cases had not been filed for 55 per cent of the complaints submitted to the Attorney General within the previous 10 years. In Sri Lanka there is also a big need for appropriately trained human resources and adequate child protection budgets. Several well-developed countries of the world have well-developed child protection systems, primarily focused at mandatory reporting, identification and investigations of affected children, and often taking coercive action. However, Sri Lanka is not having such facilities. A lack of resources and weak political will have made it difficult for Sri Lanka to to implement past legislation for protecting children.

In 1995, the penal code was amended to require that sexual acts with minors under the age of consent, 16, be tried under the offence of statutory rape, or under Article 365 of the penal code, which defines unnatural sexual acts and grave abuse. But delays in legal proceedings, lack of witness protection and lack of assistance to victims are discouraging families and victims from reporting cases or seeking help. The ultimate responsibility to protect its nation’s children lies with the Government. The protection of children requires the combined and closely coordinated involvement of key players, with national governments giving the most important lead. The problem of child abuse is considerable in Sri Lanka and there is an urgent need to strengthen the services offered to the victims.

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