In June 2023, Sri Lanka witnessed a shocking increase in child abuse incidents, highlighting the urgent need for collective action to protect vulnerable children. According to reports, a total of 78 incidents were documented, affecting a heartbreaking 80 child victims. Among them, 58% were female and 37% were male, with sexual abuse accounting for 35% of the reported cases.
The district of Kalutara emerged as the area with the highest number of reported cases, impacting 10 child victims, while Gampaha and Colombo followed closely with each representing 10% of the cases.
One alarming trend that surfaced was the continued negligence exhibited by school caregivers. Two cases involving food poisoning led to approximately 60 students being hospitalized, raising serious questions about the safety and well-being of children in educational settings.
Equally concerning was the discovery of individuals targeting school children to sell drugs. The authorities arrested five perpetrators with significant quantities of drugs in their possession, exposing the risk these children face in their pursuit of education.
Tragically, the most prevalent form of abuse among the reported incidents was sexual abuse, with 27 cases impacting 34% of the victims. Acts of negligence and physical abuse followed closely, constituting 44% of the reported cases.
The data also reveals a distressing reality of children as young as infants enduring abuse, with children aged 2 to 5 and 0 to 1 years old making up 17% of the victims. Negligence remained the most prevalent form of abuse in these age groups, demanding greater attention to protecting our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
Perhaps most troubling was the fact that 40% of the perpetrators were individuals known to the child but not related to them, while 27% were complete strangers to the child’s family. This highlights the importance of fostering a safe and protective environment within a child’s immediate social circle.
Two high-profile incidents of sexual exploitation garnered significant media coverage and public outcry, leading to increased reporting. These cases prompted the President of Sri Lanka, who also serves as the Minister of Women, Child Affairs, and Social Empowerment, Ranil Wickremesinghe, to address the matter and call for stronger legislation to safeguard children’s well-being.
In addition to child abuse incidents, June also witnessed tragic accidents involving children. Road accidents and drowning accounted for 17 child deaths, while two lives were lost due to negligent handling of firearms.
The surge in reported child abuse incidents and tragic accidents calls for immediate action by the authorities, communities, and families alike. Strengthening child protection laws, creating awareness campaigns, and providing proper support systems are crucial steps to ensure the safety and well-being of all children in Sri Lanka.
It is essential for all stakeholders, including the government, law enforcement agencies, educational institutions, and civil society organizations, to work together to create a safer environment for children. Only through collective efforts can we protect the future generation from the horrors of abuse and accidents, and provide them with the nurturing and supportive environment they deserve. Let us unite to safeguard the innocence and happiness of our children, for they are the hope and promise of our nation’s tomorrow.
Source – ECPAT Sri Lanka