The child victims | Daily News

The child victims

Last week ended with the occurrence of a few heart breaking incidents and unfortunately, all of them are related to children. It seems that parents are turning a blind eye and a deaf ear towards their own children or the well-being of others’ children. The entire country should remember one thing. Protection is the child's right and protecting them is the responsibility of parents, teachers, adults and all others.

A fourteen-year-old student died after falling into an unprotected drain filled with rainwater. Following a nearly four-hour operation carried out jointly by residents in the area and army personnel, the child stuck in the drain was rescued and admitted to the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital. But the child had passed away shortly after while receiving treatment in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

This is not the first nor will it be the last child to die here in Sri Lanka in this manner. A few years ago a young girl from the Kandy district died in the same manner after falling into an unprotected drain. Many people have been injured and hospitalized after falling into unprotected drains and other types of pits in the past and the media reported all those incidents.

Death traps on public roads

But we, ordinary people of this country can laugh and cry at the same time when we see the responses of all relevant authorities who kept those death traps on public roads. After a fatal incident they become active like nothing and run here and there like crazy dogs closing down the fatal pits only located in the specific area where the particular tragedy occurred, which is limited to the town or the village. The same authorities fail to close all the other pits and open drains located in other areas of the country. They totally ignore their responsibility and act like babies without attending to their official duties.

They become active only when a death is reported once again. Why on earth can't they do their job and take action to close all pits and open drains which are death traps, located on public roads in this country for god's sake? Why don’t the top authorities introduce new rules and regulations making it compulsory that all pits and open drains are closed after whatever the repair or development is completed? Why can't they inspect illegal structures regularly? People pay taxes to do these things. But, the people never saw punishing relevant authorities for not doing their official duty. No officer has been punished so far for the deaths of children, young people and others who died inside drains and pits.

The other heartbreaking incident reported last week is the gang rape of a 14-year-old girl. This is also not the first nor the last incident of this nature that has been reported. The most important part of this story is about having a ‘boyfriend’ at the age of 14. This trend is not abnormal at all when it comes to uneducated, poor families in rural areas. But when studying the background information, we all can see that it is the irresponsible behaviour of parents which leads to this type of crime. Maybe those parents became parents during their teens and maybe the childbirth was not planned at all. But, somehow they become parents and the life of their female children becomes bleaker than theirs due to their irresponsible behaviour. Most of the time, the children are left with their grandparents who are actually their parents’ age (so young because they became parents during their teens)!

Then what about the seven-year-old girl child killed by her own mother and a few other women? The media reported that one of those women is pregnant. All of them were living together with a criminal with several charges such as murder, rape, child exploitation etc against him. He is the main suspect of this murder. Can a mother assist in the killing of her own child? The offence committed by the child who was killed was eating a small part of a sweetmeat (Peni Walalu) and taking a small shiny stone from another child of this ‘strange family’ with one man who lives and sleeps with three women at the same house.

Even the media did not report about this story. We all can see what this whole story is all about. One criminal is keeping three women, one legal wife and two mistresses. All three women sleep with this man and none of them love their own children. They love this criminal. Otherwise, a mother will not assist in the killing of her own small daughter. The unfortunate child who was born to this devilish mother and her man (who is living separately) died and is now resting in peace. But according to the same media report there is another male child and another child to be born soon to this ‘devilish family’.

Now all sociologists, social activists, child rights activists, women's rights activists and all will tell various things. But they cannot turn the clock back. We have reached a point that the child is not secure in the hands of his/her own mother and father. There is no need to describe the current situation in Sri Lankan society any more.

We journalists are not experts in the relevant fields. We know journalism but we are not experts in other fields such as criminology, anthropology, psychology, medical sciences etc. But, as ordinary Sri Lankan citizens with an average knowledge on all subjects we can say something to all the decision makers in this country. It is the sole responsibility of decision makers of this country to slow down the social destruction and put a full stop to it as soon as possible before the future generation of this country gets destroyed and the ones who survive become criminals. Otherwise, Sri Lanka will become a country of criminals.

The very first step should be introducing the toughest possible punishments to crimes related to children by enacting new laws. It will control the behaviour of criminals and their supporters to a certain extent. This seems to be the only way out from the current situation that the country is facing. There are many other crimes which do not receive publicity through the media. We see only the tip of the iceberg.

The second step should be seeking long term solutions for the problem. Those solutions should address the root causes of the issue and not the problems which are visible to us. First of all, the issue of child mothers should be solved and no girls below the age of 20 should be allowed to have children. If girls below the age of 20 become mothers, the parents or the guardians of the girl child should be held responsible and punished. This should be the first step because then there will not be vulnerable children born to underage mothers. The issue of underage mothers is one of the burning issues in Sri Lanka, especially in rural areas. It is directly connected to child prostitution and all types of crimes.

Need a surveillance system

Then a surveillance system should be established at village level to detect and protect vulnerable female children. This can be done very easily through Child Protection Officers attached to all Divisional Secretariats. They are getting paid to protect children but we all know that most of the public servants are getting paid for doing nothing at all.

Without a complete database on vulnerable children in the country nothing can be done to protect them and prevent possible disasters. After tracking down all vulnerable children they can be protected through a proper system implemented through the Government. When there is a tracking system and surveillance system, criminals will think twice before raping an innocent child and executing other evil acts. When tracking down vulnerable children the child's surrounding environment should be investigated and possible threats can be identified before any disaster takes place. The meaning is that criminals can be tracked down before committing crimes. Who knows, maybe criminals are already there in and around your house or the houses which your child visits often! 

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