ECONOMYNEXT – Child protection activists in Sri Lanka called for a national child protection framework on Friday (01), noting that the island lags behind in its pledge to protect child rights.
This is despite Sri Lanka being the only country in the region to commit to the United Nations sustainability goal 16.2 to end violence against children, activists said in a forum that marked World Children’s Day.
“We must remember that our country and our governments have taken on a sacred obligation on the gratification of the convention of the rights of the child since 1989,” Savithri Goonesekere, Emeritus Professor of Law and former Vice Chancellor at the University of Colombo, told the forum that was organised by the Stop Child Cruelty Trust (SCCT).
“They have duties to ensure child rights and child protection is given adequate emphasis,” Goonesekere said in her keynote.
Though Sri Lanka has been largely successful in providing free education and healthcare to children, the country has a long way to go in terms of child protection.
“We need to go further on the child protection area. Since these are binding obligations, the state has duties and children have rights.”
The forum also saw the launch the ‘#JustANumber Child Protection Month’ to increase awareness of the fundamental rights of children through various public programmes.
One of the key objectives of this advocacy campaign is to compel parliament to change provisions in Sri Lanka’s Penal Code on cruelty to children, following the Supreme Court’s recent recognition of corporal punishment of children by schools as unlawful and a violation of a child’s right.
SCCT will join hands with other civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to form Sri Lanka’s first ever Child Protection Alliance, a statement said.
The forum noted that, in the past year, five children were physically and sexually abused to death in Sri Lanka.
Goonesekere is also former Vice Chancellor at the University of Colombo and a former member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.
She was joined on the panel by former President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, and SCCT chairperson Tush Wickramanayaka.
Sri Lanka signed the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1989 and is the only South Asian country committed to Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 to end violence against children.
However, speakers at the forum said, the country still lacks a national child protection framework.
Former- President Kumaratunga said authorities should resolve the child protection crisis effectively without politicising matters by working cohesively with NGOs.
“Child protection is the ultimate measurement of the level of civilization in a society and I applaud the efforts of Stop Child Cruelty Trust in establishing the Child Protection Alliance to find solutions to the current child protection crisis in Sri Lanka,” she said.
As part of the #JustANumber Child Protection Month, SSCT will host a series of events that will take place every weekend from October 1 to November 20.
SCCT chairperson Wickramanayaka said: “Even with the unprecedented rise in child abuse on our island, the relevant authorities appear to be crippled in their efforts to protect and promote our children’s rights.
“Child protection is a collective social responsibility and Stop Child Cruelty is fully committed to becoming the powerful force behind increasing knowledge and engagement to empower Sri Lankans across the country to recognise the child as a rights holder.”
SSCT has also organised a national art and speech competition on the country’s child protection crisis. Children between the ages of six to 18 can participate.
For more details regarding the competition, visit www.facebook.com/groups/211381800981039. (Colombo/Oct02/2021)