Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2614

Are children neglected in Sri Lanka?

By Quintus Perera – Asian Tribune

There are attempts to portray peace which is essentially and urgently required in Sri Lanka to provide a conducive environment for all the communities, ethnic groups and religious groups to live together as one family in this once peaceful Island. But this peaceful atmosphere was visible only prior to 1971.

Peace, hegemony, majority race to dominate the minority and war to stamp out at whatever cost are being argued vociferously, while the government is said to be (because there is no verifiable independent war news) going hammer and tongs in pursuing the war.

Where do the children coming into the scene of war and peace?

There are international human rights days, international women’s days and a host such international days that are being celebrated every year. If one considers about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka – just one point would elaborate the situation. Any country administered under Emergency Regulations is in itself is a basic universally accepted human rights violation and Sri Lanka has been on and often being ruled under Emergency Regulations since 1971. Not only that, this country has been under Curfew too in some prolonged periods.Rev Fr Anthony Humor Pinto, Provincial Superior for Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Don Bosco Salasians addressing the Press Conference.Rev Fr Anthony Humor Pinto, Provincial Superior for Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Don Bosco Salasians addressing the Press Conference.

Then the women’s rights. To illustrate few points in this regard – take the case of thousands and thousands of girls herded in uninhabitable boarding houses and sometimes those garment factories are called slave camps where individual targets are counted and also sometime ago, even the number of times the girls visiting toilets in some of the factories were monitored which was identified as ‘Choo Cards’.

There is a case of one of these ‘garment girls’ in Katunayake was allegedly repeatedly raped by more than 10 men.

Then the while government on top of its voice say that women or expatriate Sri Lankans provide the highest foreign exchange, even despite massive suppression of information, there are numerous stories reaching Sri Lanka, as to how these women are murdered, molested, raped and maimed in some of those blooming job providing countries. There is the case of how a woman was allegedly raped by officials at the Katunayake International Airport.

Not only the government so pompously broadcast that these women in other countries provide highest foreign exchange, but there is accusation that people’s money is misused that were collected from the people who goes for foreign employment. Take the case of charges on the Passport, from something like Rs 500 now the figure has gone up to Rs 5,000, though it is true that the passport could be obtained by three days once your pay the higher amount.

With all these extreme conditions be it, human rights, women’s welfare or children’s welfare, when it comes to commemorating these International day for whoever or whatever, there would be a galaxy of politicians and officials of various departments to celebrate and if one goes into how these celebrations found funds the person would find that funds would have most probably been allotted by some international organization. Year after year these celebrations would go on, but it would appear nothing tangible happens for the welfare or uplifting of on whose behalf these commemoration functions are held.

But then what is the status of children in this country, in the backdrop of Universal Children’s Day that falls on October 1, (today). Child welfare denotes the wellbeing of children. In the US and in some of the advanced countries child-welfare programmes are adapted to the needs of children whose families do not have means to take proper care of them.

In the 19th century almost no government made any efforts to protect the health and welfare of children. While still Sri Lanka is trotting or rather limping towards children’s welfare, US Children’s Bureau as far back as in 1912 marked the beginning of modern child-welfare programmes catering to special needs of children.

In 1959 the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which affirmed the rights of children everywhere to receive adequate care from parents and the community. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989, attempts to consolidate international law on the basic rights of children to survival, education and protection from abuse and exploitation.

In some other countries a variety of child-welfare service programmes are conducted which are called support services, supplementary programmes or substitute care.

Family-service agencies, guidance clinics, and agencies that furnish protection to children are considered support services. These services attempt to sustain a child within a family that is undergoing stress because of illness, unemployment, divorce, or the presence of only one parent. The family services and child guidance clinics work on parent-child relationship problems through individual and group counseling, the guidance clinics also give help to parents with emotionally disturbed children.

Supplementary services include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and day-care and homemaker services. These programmes are carried out by various other countries and in fact various laws have been enacted to protect children from abuse. In fact there are countries that treat caning by a teacher and even by parent a punishable offence. Whereas in Sri Lanka there are innumerable instances where teachers allegedly hammering students and the parents punishing has been totally ignored.

Again why children for peace when the broad spectrum is the welfare and abuse of children in the limelight. Indeed, children could be used as a vehicle for peace, because war would be making innumerable damage to children as well as women. Therefore in this important day assigned for children, they could definitely carry the message of peace, through to the hearts of elders who are involved in fighting each other, on the pretext of eliminating terrorism and violence.

Today at 4 pm at the Don Bosco Technical Centre auditorium, in Etthukala, Negombo, more than 75 children specially flown from Thailand sing together with Sri Lankan Children “marching for Peace” when some elders beating war drums and marching for battle.

Sri Lanka children will have a rare opportunity of seeing a young, world-class brass band when this group of children from Thailand below the age of 17 perform and also interact with our children in a series of events that will coincide with the International Children’s day.

The award-winning Sarasit Phithayalai School Marching and Show Band (gold medal winners at the 2006 World Marching Show Band Championships in Korea and many other international award winners). In addition to their performing in Eththukala, Negombo they are also scheduled to play in Nochchiyagama, Anuradhapura, Balapitiya, Tangalle and Colombo from October 1 to 13th. Even President Mahinda Rajapakse has invited the “Peace Marchers” to the Temple Trees to perform, may be a prelude for peace.

The Sri Lanka Don Bosco Salasians (a catholic institution devoted for child welfare and youth training and formation) sponsors the Sarasit Peace Marchers and they will have to raise an enormous cost of around Rs 17 million for providing various facilities for these children and organizing other events. There are several other organizations too rallying round the SLDBS in this task.

Few days ago a press briefing was held at Hilton Hotel, Colombo to announce the arrival of the Sarasit Peace Marchers from Thailand.

Rev Fr Anthony Humor Pinto, Provincial Superior, SLDBS introducing the programme, elaborated the activities of the SLDBS towards children and youth. During the last 50 years these religious men have devoted their time and energy in working for school drop outs and youth training, children’s welfare etc.

They operate in 17 different places in Sri Lanka where they work for children in the North, East from Mannar to Hambantota.

He also told the gathering how they have labored to get down this Children’s Band from Thailand. He said that many speak about peace and now there is this Band of Children from Thailand singing for peace, along with Sri Lankan Children. He said that these little ones would be the best peace ambassadors to realize the dreams of Sri Lanka and sing together.

The Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka would host 1,500 children along with the Thai Child Peace Marcher to a meal in Anuradhapura. HNB has come forward as the Chief Sponsor while Sirasa too gave them inspiration in organizing this event.

Along with the Don Bosco Priest, there were Ven Kondegammulle Gnanasir Thero, Angurukaramulla Temple, Negombo; Gerald Mendis, Chairman, Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka; Wiliam Costley, General Manager, Hilton Hotel, Colombo; Ven Balapitiye Dammika Thero, President, Buddhist Protection Association, Balapitiya and Mr Halgesha, President, Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka.

The two Buddhist Monks pledged to work in harmony with the other religious leaders to work for peace and use the children to bridge the gap.

Mr Costley said that Hotel Hilton too as part of their CSR projects, are involved in lot of welfare activities for Children and youth. They offer scholarships to youth in Hospitality industry, and help the Deaf and Blind School in Ratmalana in a big way. He said that they are going handle a gigantic task in Anuradhapura to provide 15,000 kilos of food and they are joined by the Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka and several other hotels.

Yet, there should be focus on children in Sri Lanka in a broader perspective. Some children actually are neglected in this country. Though various organizations fight with their teeth and nail, Sri Lanka is also one country sunk in the child abuse network mafia. In fact to penetrate into this mafia ring and catch them, all the Banks in Sri Lanka joined hands to trace those who involve in child abuse, though credit card payments. They have formulated a scheme to trace them and struck them out of their role.

In Sri Lanka most of the values are lost in the pursuit of money as there are some bent to earn more by whatever means and children too are caught in the process. Children have become cogs in a wheel.

When a child is born and when it can walk and just pass three to four years, they are put to nursery school and they are ground there to face competition to get into best schools.

At the school it is real war where the child’s childhood and boyhood is taken away. Once they come back from the school, they are not allowed to go to the playground but to the tuition class and up till he passes GCE Advanced Level the school and tuition grinding goes on and once student gets through he is put to professional training or the university. There too these fellows would be hell bent to pass the examinations and then followed by employment and then the marriage and when they get children the same inhuman process would take place.

Though outwardly it is not that visible, some of the children girls and boys alike are molested and sexually abused and according to research these happens in their own homes, by the close elders and sometimes by their own fathers. When in these poor and ignorant families, the mother goes abroad for employment, the father is kept lonely and they would have a sexual lull. So, there are instances where when the money is sent by the females from abroad, the men used to enjoy booze and in that intoxication, they tend to molest their own daughters. Most of these child for the fear of repression and inability to leave their abodes, keep silent, though some cases come to like. Vulnerability could be rampant in the rural settings where entertainment is almost nil.

The children would not have time to learn good manners and how to behave as throughout they are involved in books in the school and in the tuition class.

No one appears to be bothered to look into these major constraints faced by children, as elders are in a frenzied mood to earn their living and they would not find any spare time to look after the children. There is also the war and spiraling cost of living that takes precedence for elders rather than look into the welfare of their own children in the best way in the civilized world.

Sri Lanka must take examples from other countries as to how to look after the children and more and more religious institutions should take over the children and youth to shape them to be good citizens and tolerate others views.

Sri Lanka should find some ways and means to tackle the children’s problems in a more pragmatic way, with more and more children’s welfare activities and not only through laws, but also by elders being exemplary for the children to emulate.

Let there be peace and protection of children as stressed and spelled out by the UN Charter.

- Asian Tribune -

Share this