Children of all ages have the fundamental right to live, learn and grow without fear of violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination. A robust child protection system ensures this right is available to all children.
UNICEF is working with partners to strengthen the child protection system at the national, regional and community level so that children can thrive within supportive family and community environments that protect them, and provide them with safe and equal access to important services.
Social and cultural norms that tolerate emotional, physical and sexual violence against children exist throughout Sri Lanka. Further, parents, teachers and children are often unaware of how to access and utilize child protection services even if a violation is experienced. A lack of coordination at the national, district and divisional levels has made it difficult to weave important child protection principles into the work of other connected sectors such as health, education, social protection and justice.
To address these challenges , the quality and delivery of child protection services needs improvements in the following areas:
- More child protection personnel need to be urgently hired and trained to meet demand.
- Where resources do exist, they need to be channeled towards greater engagement with children, families and schools to help change attitudes and social norms.
- Stakeholders need more support in developing preventive measures and much remains to be done to assist children that have already been harmed.
Most importantly, Sri Lanka lacks a national child protection framework. This means that well-meaning stakeholders at every level lack nationally accepted guidelines and a defined hierarchy within which to carry out their tasks. To make matters more challenging, insufficient evidence and data make it hard for policymakers to assess and react to challenges on the ground.
Children with disabilities are at greater risk. Essential services for children with physical or mental disabilities are either unaffordable in many areas or absent altogether. Several communities lack the ability to identify and respond early to the needs of these children, and do not have suitable parental support schemes to provide the type of safety net that they and their families need.