The Government of Sri Lanka has given high priority to the protection of children and women from physical and sexual abuse and has undertaken a number of initiatives in this regard, including enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2005. It also leads South Asia in terms of women’s indicators on education and health, and made commendable efforts to promote gender equality. Yet, challenges remain.
Reports of increasing child abuse, neglect and exploitation are on the rise. Out of about 15,000 legal trials pending nationwide, more than 4,000 (27 per cent) involve some form of violence toward a child. Moreover, out of 1,126 abuse cases for which the Ministry of Child Development had detailed information in 2013, 206 victims were younger than age 10 and 878 were between 10 and 16 years old.
According to figures tabled in Parliament in April 2013, there were 1,750 cases of child rape, 330 cases of rape, 5,475 cases of child molestation and 1,194 cases of child abuse in 2012 .
There is also evidence that in 96% of cases of sexual abuse, the abuser is a person known to the victim In addition, a recent study involving 194 parents in Colombo, found that 40.7 per cent of parents had kicked, choked, beaten, burned, threatened with a weapon, thrown, knocked down, punched or hit their child with an object anywhere other than their bottom during the previous month .
Sadly, the lack of data – disaggregated or otherwise, remains one of the biggest challenges in tackling child abuse and exploitation, along with a culture of impunity that has been exacerbated by the long delays in the processing of child abuse cases. In addition, there is no one stop “place” for survivors of abuse to get the medical, psych-social, legal or police support they require. Service provision is fragmented and standards differ.