Business Times

Child abuse increasing in northern Sri Lanka

By Quintus Perera

Child abuse is rising in northern Sri Lanka and is a worrying phenomenon after the end of the conflict, a top Government official has said. Ms Emelda Sukumar, Government Agent, Jaffna, during a discussion on 'The Role of the Education in Reconciliation" at Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies, last week referred to a tragic phenomenon of a near collapse of the moral social fabric of the North. She called for immediate redress by whatever means and said the numbers were spiraling and now stands at 600 child abuse cases annually. She said there were cases of grandfathers allegedly molesting their granddaughters in ages ranging from 10 to 12 years and within a period of three weeks three girls were allegedly raped. Some of these molested girls were total orphans - both their parents lost, she said.

She said that this immoral culture was not there before the conflict or during the conflict period, but has emerged after the conflict. Ms Sukumar was unable to attribute any reasons for this degrading state of affairs in the North. She said: "even fathers abuse their 10 year old girls and there was one recent occasion of a father allegedly raping his daughter five times in a day." A participant, Lenin Benedict from Jaffna said that state agencies have done nothing tangible in the north while substantial work has been done by Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the North. Mr Benedict, discussing a National Education Policy, said "You cannot have different programmes - one in the North and another in the South. There should be one National Policy on Education. All the work has been done by NGOs and nothing has been done by the government."

Rev Sister Canice Fernando, Principal, Holy Family Convent, Rajagiriya presented in pictures the work they have done in the North in the field of Education in Reconciliation and how they worked with the children in the North as well as those children in the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps in nurturing them to prepare for their OL and AL examinations.

They brought the children of the North and the South to Anuradhapura in training them in education and gradually made them friends. She said that war and conflict cause not only material harm but also produce extreme psychological suffering for those who must live and survive under those circumstances. Therefore, besides reconstruction and development of the economy, it is important to deal with the consequences of violence for women, men and children, support reconciliation processes, protect human rights and re-establish a basic sense of social belonging.

Most of the speakers pointed out that there should be a National Educational Policy to have reconciliation through education, pointing to a situation of futility of this type of conference on Education for Reconciliation, in the absence of a proper National Educational Policy. Unfortunately the two key speakers, Prof G L Peiris, Minister of External affairs who made the keynote address and Mohan Lal Grero, Monitoring Minister of Education who spoke on "Promoting Moderation, and Co-existence through Education' were both absent during the discussion which raised more vital issues than their presentations.

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