Govt. and UNICEF launch campaign to end child sexual abuse, violence against children

Wednesday, 6 May 2015 01:25 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

    At an event attended by high level government officials, civil society, media and children, the State Minister of Child Affairs Rosy Senanayake last week launched a national campaign to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse and violence in the country. The campaign focuses on the mark of a ‘thumbprint’ as a symbolic and personal pledge to galvanise public support to end sexual abuse and violence against children in the country. “Sexual abuse and cruelty towards children can only be overcome if everyone comes together and takes a zero tolerance policy against the issue,” said Senanayake. According to the NCPA, in 2014, 1469 reported complaints were related to sexual abuse and 2160 were related to cruelty. In addition, a study conducted by UNICEF in 2014, revealed that, among 450 respondents, including adults, children and youth, most felt that sexual abuse happens to someone else and not in their family or to people known to them. This group also believed that the main perpetrators of sexual abuse were strangers rather than those within their own family or community. However, the majority of actual reports in the country highlight that 50% of all sexual abuse offences against children were committed by a parent, care-giver or other relative, and in 80% of cases, the abuser is known to the victim. “Even one-child abused is one too many,” said UNICEF’s Representative Una McCauley. “Violence against children is entirely preventable when people come together and say that it is not acceptable. When they make the invisible visible,” she said. While the integrated communications campaign is targeted to parents, caregivers, children and youth it will draw on the strength of a multi-sector partnership involving the Ministries of Health, Education, Mass Media, and Justice as well as the National Child Protection Authority, Police, the College of Paediatricians and Judicial Medical Officers.   The campaign will also mobilise scouts, girl guides, clergy and civil society groups to call others to action and to reach out and inform children about how to prevent and respond to abuse. In his remarks at the launch, the Director General of Health Services Dr. Palitha Mahipala said that, “The health sector plays a critical role in providing the care and protection of children who have been victims of sexual abuse and violence in a more personal, informal and non-intrusive way.” Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians President Professor Sujeewa Amarasena went on to elaborate: “The Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians also supports the campaign. We have developed and are promoting a multidisciplinary approach to respond comprehensively and effectively to all reported incidents of child abuse in the country.” Violence against children is everywhere. Despite the existence of laws and law enforcement, the problem of sexual abuse and violence against children remains hidden and invisible. While sexual abuse of children is often committed in private; there are rarely eyewitnesses; and the child’s testimony usually provides most of the information about the crime. Many incidents go unreported due to the prevalent culture of silence and victims do not access much-needed counselling or psychosocial support to promote healing. It is hoped, that in the longer term, campaigns such as this, will contribute towards the elimination of sexual abuse and violence against children.