In a recent report released by PEaCE/ECPAT Sri Lanka, concerning incidents of child abuse and exploitation during July 2023 have raised alarming concerns within the country. The report, which aggregates and verifies data from media coverage, highlights a disturbing trend of child abuse cases and the targeted involvement of drug dealers towards school children.
Throughout the month of July, a staggering 90 incidents of violence against children were documented in Sri Lankan media. These incidents involved 108 victims and 107 perpetrators. The statistics are both shocking and concerning, with sexual abuse, physical abuse, and negligence accounting for nearly 70% of the reported cases. Among these, sexual abuse emerged as the most prevalent form, affecting a significant number of minors, particularly females.
One of the most disturbing trends highlighted in the report is the deliberate targeting of school children by drug dealers. During July, the authorities managed to apprehend 22 suspects in two separate cases, all allegedly involved in attempting to sell drugs to students. The locations of these arrests, in Badulla and Matale, underscore the extent of this issue. The arrest in Badulla yielded a substantial amount of illicit substances, with the suspect found in possession of a shocking 1793 drug capsules.
This troubling pattern brings several important factors to light:
- Vulnerability of School Children: Drug dealers view school children as easy targets due to their vulnerability and susceptibility. These youngsters can easily fall victim to the allure of drugs due to peer pressure or personal struggles.
- Long-term Profit Potential: The consistent targeting of school children highlights drug dealers’ willingness to take risks for a potentially profitable and long-lasting customer base.
- Recruitment Strategy: This trend also exposes the drug dealers’ attempt to recruit school students for their criminal activities. Children who feel marginalized or are struggling academically might be lured by the promise of income and a sense of belonging.
The report also outlines other critical cases of child abuse, including child suicides, monks involved in sexual abuse, and instances of physical violence by school teachers and principals against students. Moreover, the data reveals the geographic distribution of cases, with Kurunegala being the district with the highest number of reported incidents.
The report urges collective efforts from stakeholders, law enforcement agencies, educational institutions, and communities to address and counteract this deeply concerning trend of child abuse and exploitation. It emphasizes the importance of safeguarding children’s well-being and creating a safe environment that protects them from harm.
The findings presented in this report are a wake-up call for Sri Lanka to implement comprehensive strategies to ensure the safety and security of its young population. It is hoped that these revelations will lead to swift actions and heightened awareness to protect the country’s children from such heinous acts.