Cautious welcome for noose by rights groups; want immediate action against offenders

Sexual violencE against women and children

A proposal to impose the death penalty for rape has been welcomed by rights group, but they are calling the government to make use of the existing laws to initiate action against the offenders, as instances of rape of children and women exceeded 1,000 for this year.
The move came as a concept paper to re-impose the death penalty for rape, was under study by the Justice Ministry.

Child Development and Women Affairs Minister Tissa Karaliyadda told the Sunday Times that, due to the increase in abuse, it has allowed the ministry to prepare a concept paper in order to amend the current legislation of capital punishment to the death penalty.

He said the concept paper has been sent to the Ministry of Justice for early implementation as a deterrent to prevent child and women abuse.
“Until then, the Ministry has given orders to each and every division, department and authority to act strongly against such offenders with the existing rules and regulations, to save the future of the country”, he said.

He said it has been proposed that punishments be implemented without any amnesty, and offenders given life sentences for this heinous crime. He also stated that imposing the Death penalty on abusers is a difficult task to achieve, with pressure from human rights and other groups who oppose the death penalty as the offenders are human beings.

Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs Legal Officer Ms. Kumudu Perera stated that, according to the current act, the maximum punishment an offender of sexual abuse of children and rape can get is 20 years in jail.

She said that she had been informed by the Justice Ministry that a committee will be appointed soon to study the concept paper, in order to reform the current law and to make amendments to impose the death penalty as the capital punishment for sexual abuse of women and children.
Officer-in-Charge of Police Unit- National Child Protection Authority, Buddhika Balachandra stated that the imposition of the death penalty will be a strong deterrent against such violence within society, to enable the women and children of this country to live without any fear.
He said that the death penalty is not the only solution to prevent rapes, but also the control of showing sexually explicit footages through television, videos, websites, magazines and books.

“This should be cut from the root to prevent these crimes, otherwise it will be difficult to control this current situation in the future.” added Mr. Balachandra.

SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka Organisation’s Senior Project Director Ms. Earline Barthelot stated that stringent laws and regulations can solve the issue of abuse to a certain extent, but the importance in educating people about prevention of abuse through awareness programmes, can solve the problem to a greater extent. She also stated that this present move by the State can make a difference, and would deter people from committing these crimes.

“It’s important to implement such punishments to the abusers, so that they can understand the seriousness of their crimes, but punishing them is not the answer in full.” added Ms. Barthelot.

Women In Need- Human Resources and Outreach Programme Manager Ms Sumithra Fernando stated that the current law would suffice to make a difference within society, but the application and enforcement of these laws have been poor, to deter would-be abusers from getting involved in such crimes. She also stated that 90% of the offenders are protectors of the community and administration of the country, and they abuse their power to commit crimes and get away with it.

“The Death Penalty has not deterred drug traffickers and murderers from committing their crimes, so it will be a huge leap to stop people from abusing children and women.” said Ms Fernando.

Save the Children Member Services and Advocacy Director Ms Menaca Calyaneratne stated that, guardians responsible for the care and protection of children, such as teachers, principals, caregivers in children’s homes, and some members of the clergy and police are increasingly abusing children. She further said that the imposition of the death penalty would certainly lessen the rates, but will not prevent these situations entirely.

“I think that prevention of child abuse is more important than brining the death penalty, simply because of the permanent damage it does to children.” said Ms. Calyaneratne.On Friday, women’s rights groups held a protest in Colombo, calling for an end to abuse of children and women.

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