Concerns have been raised about child cruelty in Sri Lanka and the National Child Protection Authority’s (NCPA) inability to protect infants and children. This came after two horrifying cases were reported last week–with one child being beaten to death. At Kandugoda in Delgoda, a nine-year-old child was mercilessly beaten to death by a woman exorcist [...]


Concern over child cruelty as nine-year- old child beaten to death by exorcist

Wide criticism of NCPA's failure to deal effectively with such cases; cruelty to hundreds of children of Sri Lankan women who worked abroad and have returned

Concerns have been raised about child cruelty in Sri Lanka and the National Child Protection Authority’s (NCPA) inability to protect infants and children.

This came after two horrifying cases were reported last week–with one child being beaten to death.

At Kandugoda in Delgoda, a nine-year-old child was mercilessly beaten to death by a woman exorcist who resided in the area, while the mother stood watching. The child had been brought to the exorcist to have a ‘dhisti’, a South Asian concept to drive away an evil spirit from a person who is possessed.

The 38-year-old exorcist was from Gunasinghepura in Colombo, and had moved to Delgoda only a few years ago. She is said to have cured several possessed people in the area.

The mother who believed that the spirit of the grandmother had possessed her daughter had brought the child to the exorcist.

The exorcist had put some oil on the child and had beaten her mercilessly with canes, while the mother watched helplessly in the hope the child would be cured.

The girl child had fainted twice. When she fainted the third time, because of nonstop beating, she did not regain consciousness. On admission to hospital the child was declared dead.

The area police said they found around seven canes broken to pieces because of the lashings. The mother and the exorcist have been taken into custody.

In another instance, a video clip of an eight-month child being beaten by the mother went viral on social media.

The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) which took up the case had rescued the child and arrested the mother for child cruelty. The Nallur Divisional Secretariat’s NCPA Probation officer said the mother and child were being held at a Trincomalee house, run by the NCPA.

Investigations have revealed that the unmarried 24-year-old woman, a returnee from Kuwait, had come back with a child.

Inquiries have revealed that the child has been fathered by an Indian also living in Kuwait. He had promised to come to Sri Lanka and marry the mother.

But she had lost contact with him and had also not received any money from him for their child. The woman said she had spent all the money she had earned overseas, on the air ticket and for quarantine in a hotel on her return to Sri Lanka.

It was learned the video was recorded and sent to the WhatsApp number of the child’s father with the intention of making him feel guilty and responsible for the child. The woman’s brother said the video was sent to the father and it had leaked from his side.

A medical officer who examined the child said the infant had no signs of being beaten earlier. The mother is being examined by a psychiatrist to determine the reasons for her actions. The case will be taken up on Thursday, March 11.

The NCPA said it had no methodology to deal with such cases and there were no preventive measures that would ensure that such incidents did not happen in the future.

The Foreign Employment Bureau said there were several female returnees who came back with babies.

FEB General Manager Mangala Randeniya said there had been around 40,000 returnees from Middle Eastern countries.

“The FEB does not ask questions. It is their personal matter,” Mr. Randeniya said.

There was a legal problem since the children’s birth was not recorded in those countries or here. He said they grow up as illegitimate children and face abuses in society.

According to officials, the NCPA data in the last several years revealed that of an average 8500 complaints received annually, cruelty to children stands at 25%.

However the NCPA has still not formulated a programme to overcome the problem that has been escalating in the past ten years.

The probation officers who deal with these incidents handled them on a case-by-case basis, providing victims with psycho-social support including observation and regular visits from the area health officers.

However in most cases it had been found, the perpetrators were also victims of circumstances.

The NCPA delay in submitting its annual reports for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 to Parliament had made it difficult to make evidence-based intervention on child abuse and to develop prevention activities and programmes, the officials say.

This is taking place despite Rs. nine million of public funds spent in 2016 and 2017 to prepare a data base and Rs. 1.2 million (provided by the Colombo University’s computer studies department) to develop a software for the data base.

Kotalawela Defence University Senior lecturer Jayan Mendis analysing the second case said that the mother of the infant was a victim of depression due to social and financial hardships in her life.

The mother in the first case was a victim of a mental state of trance and conversion disorder based on a false belief system where the society and culture was dominated by myths and deities.

“People need to be educated so they will not believe these myths in the 21st century,” he said.

The case officers in law enforcement need to be aware of child protection and the special circumstances under which these crimes were committed. Most often the police officers were unsympathetic towards perpetrators and portray them as demons.

The NCPA had no programme to safeguard and protect lives of new born babies who were abused or killed. Plans to establish New Born Babies Receiving Centres in the nine provinces attached to nine hospitals with paediatric units was still to be implemented.

Meanwhile the national policy on prevention of child abuse, that was formulated in 2000, was yet to be implemented. The parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) which met last month, had given two months’ time for the NCPA to expedite shortcomings in the implementation of policies.

The policies include expediting the publishing of annual reports from 2016 to 2019, establishing a legal framework for the transportation of schoolchildren to prevent child abuse, and establishing schoolchildren protection committees in schools. It was learned that of the 3165 committees only 2392 committees are active.

The COPE had also emphasised the need to strengthen NCPA law enforcement and legal divisions, based on the finding that of the 89,405 complaints received by the Authority in the last ten years, 40,668 cases remain to be resolved.

Also, the Authority had been directed to fill 206 existing vacancies in its cadre.

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