Hope Introduction

In Sri Lanka, the poor status of child safety has become a national malady. Interestingly, the true nature and extent of child abuse is never truly reported even in the more affluent countries. Ceylon was one of the pioneers in the world for enacting Children and Young Persons' ordinance in 1938 even before we received Independence. This law still governs the Child Protection regime in Sri Lanka.

The establishment of the Child Protection Society in 1928 under the Patronage of the then British Governor has an important Landmark. By and large, it was individual benefactors who have managed these charitable child care homes and provided the necessary love, care and protection. Seducing or raping underage persons leave psychological scars on children which will retard their growth and full potential. Even the British colonials realized this serious malady as far back as 1928 and established the child protection society which was the first of its kind in Asia.

The mental and moral health of our future generations has to be safeguarded. Giving protection to and looking after the orphaned, abandoned, destitute and those subjected to cruelty and are faced with various disasters and subjected to abuse is the need of the hour. Child Protection Laws, which remained dormant for few years are now been activated by a dynamic NCPA.

Alarming Rates of Child Abuse and Child Labor in Sri Lanka

Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. Vulnerable children face five principal types of risk: sexual abuse, emotional abuse, institutional abuse, physical neglect, and non-organic failure to thrive.
In Sri Lanka 25% of court cases heard in courts are child abuse cases, reveals a study conducted by the Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Ministry. A notable feature is majority of children were victimized by their blood relatives. According to the study 51% court cases of Ambilipitiya are on child abuses, 32.7% of Badulla district, 24% Kegalle, 45.27% from Polonnaruwa, 40.17% from Rathnapura, 38.60% from Kandy, 33.16% from Anuradhapura reported as child abuses.
Apart from this situation, a large number of children are involved in some form of economic activity or child labour in Sri Lanka. According to a recent National Survey on Child Labour, nearly 26 per cent of children living in Sri Lanka engaged in an economic activity while not attending school or any other educational institution. It is reported in the survey that 52 per cent (475,531) of all working children are under 15 years of age.

The majority of the children engaged in economic activity are boys (62.3 per cent). Furthermore, 95 per cent of all working children reside in rural areas.
Studies have shown that despite improvements in primary school enrolment, school dropouts at an early stage come from poor families. Furthermore, many of these children, particularly girls, are forced to stay home caring for their younger siblings at the expense of their schooling. Those who drop out from school find their way into the child labour market.
More and more children are subjected to violence in today's world. It is everyone's responsibility to protect children from violence. Decision makers and opinion formers should take steps to change policies and practices, locally and globally, to ensure children's rights become a reality.
In a typical press report, Lankapuvath reported on March 19, 2009 that two suspects had been taken into custody according to information received by the National Child Protection Authority regarding an incident where a 10 year old girl studying at a school in Borella had been raped by her close relations. The suspects of the incident had been presented to the Colombo Magistrate's Court on 17th March 2009 and had been released on 500,000 personal bail. The child had been entrusted to the probation and child care authority. This is a typical case reported by the media in Sri Lanka representing the dangers faced by island's children.

Child abuse represents a big danger to Sri Lankan children, jeopardizing their lives, their health, their physical, emotional and intellectual growth. Many children in the island experience some form of abuse whether it be sexual exploitation, lascivious conduct, physical and verbal, neglect or abandonment.
Sri Lanka is also affected by many natural disasters every year. Floods, landslides, drought and coastal erosion are some of the common disasters faced by Sri Lanka every year. Children are the most vulnerable group during and following a disaster. It is a fact that exposure to natural disasters has a devastating impact on the psychological and social well-being of children. We need to prevent children and young persons falling prey to those who may subject them to abuse and exploitation because of their vulnerability. Establishing a good rapport with the children and understanding their signs and symptoms to stressful events is very essential at disaster situations.
Unfortunately, some children, especially those who are left with single parents have faced traumatic events including, but not limited to, neglect, physical and psychological abuse and various degrees of abandonment due to the re-marriage of the living parent.

Ensuring Justice and Security

    Disasters, man-made or natural, pave the way for opportunistic forces to capitalise on the grief and misery of thousands of people who are vulnerable at situations beyond their control. As a result, survivors of the disasters will continue to face marginalization, vulnerability and most of the time uncertainty.
    Though the focus is always on rescue, clean water, sanitation, clothing, medical needs and temporary shelters in the aftermath of any disaster, attention should also be devoted to a secure future based on law and justice.
    Child Abandonment is a very distinct affliction that strikes children when poverty and disease prevail. In today's world, abandoned children are the most helpless and most frequent victims of violence, disease, malnutrition and death. Without the support from their families, these children are exposed to the frightening dangers of abduction and sexual exploitation.
    Shockingly, there are over 20 million homeless or abandoned children in the world today - a majority of them are orphans.Many of these orphans have been traumatized by witnessing the ruthless murder of their parents or by helplessly watching them die of AIDS or starvation. Alone, with no one to raise them, abandoned children must resort to eating any scraps available and wandering the streets.