SL Fails in Combating Child Abuse
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.-Jesus Christ (Mathew 18: 5-6)
On Friday, this newspaper, in its lead story titled, ‘Over 17,000 Child Porn Videos, Pics Uploaded Online,’ said that over 17,000 videos and photographs connected to child pornography were uploaded to the internet from Sri Lanka via various devices between 17 June and 28 July.
The article quoting Police Spokesman SDIG Ajith Rohana said that modern technology has been used to identify the person or parties that post child pornographic video clips and images. ‘We have deployed special Police teams to track down individuals who upload them as well as those who share such content. CID and Child and Women Bureau are conducting a joint investigation into criminal activities involving children.
However, statistics speak otherwise. This newspaper’s lead story of 17 June (2021) titled, ‘Police Fail to Secure Single Conviction’ not only casts doubts as to whether convictions match at least 50 per cent of such reported cases of crime, but also of the expeditiousness of Sri Lanka’s justice system in prosecuting such cases.
To quote excerpts, that article said, ‘Police were unable to get a single conviction out of a total of 2,055 cases of sexual abuse of children, cruelty to children and rape cases reported last year, Police crime data released on 14 June showed.
Those include 26 cases of sexual exploitation of children, 76 cases of cruelty to children and 1,953 rape cases.
Police detailing some of their crime data of last year said there were 26 cases of sexual exploitation of children, of which one was disposed of with no conviction, while 18 were still being investigated and seven were before the AG’s Department/Court.
Similarly, there were 76 cases of cruelty to children reported, only one case disposed of, however with no conviction, 52 of those cases were still being investigated by the Police, while 23 were either before Court or with the AG’s Department.
Meanwhile, this newspaper in an article titled, ‘NCPA records 4,000 sexual abuse complaints of minors,’ published in its 5 July issue said, ‘National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) said during the first six months of this year they had received 4,000 complaints related to abuse and sexual molestation of minors.
NCPA Chief Prof. Muditha Vidanapathirana said, during this period, 48,000 telephone calls had also been received in this regard.
He said the total number of complaints received during last year was 8,165.
If, according to Vidanapathirana, they had received 8,165 complaints in regard to child abuse and sexual molestation of minors last year, how come that the Police last year recorded only 102 of such cases, i.e. 26 cases of sexual exploitation of children and 76 cases of cruelty to children? A total of 8,165 such cases recorded by the NCPA last year, but Police taking action against only 102 of such cases is a drop of 98.75 per cent (8,063) of such cases as reported by the NCPA vis-à-vis those reported by the Police.
Does it mean that as much as 98.75 per cent of such cases reported to the NCPA were spurious or that the NCPA reported only 102 (1.25 per cent) of such cases only to the Police, or though the NCPA reported all of those 8,165 cases to the Police, action had been taken only on 1.25 per cent (102) cases by the Police last year?
While the COVID-19 Pandemic which hit the country last year would have been negative to such investigations, but considering that in 2019 Police had recorded only 114 cases of child abuse cases, of which 34 were sexual exploitation of children and the balance 80, child cruelty, does it mean that there was a decrease of child abuse cases last year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, according to Police data? This decrease, 2020 over 2019 vis-à-vis Police data is 16 (14.04 per cent).
If, however, it’s assumed that the child abuse cases reported by the Police and the NCPA in 2019 are superimposed, i.e. at 114 each and assuming that the NCPA figure of 8,165 reported last year is the correct figure, then there has been a surge in child abuse cases, both sexual exploitation and cruelty, by a number of 8,051 (7,062.28 per cent) last year. Police and the NCPA who are sustained by the taxpayer who is the general public, must not only clear the air in respect of child abuse, but also get their own houses in order as a first step to stamp out this crime.
Even in 2019 child abuse convictions were parlous, where, of the 34 cases of sexual exploitation of children filed before Police, two such cases were disposed of, however with no convictions; 26 still under Police investigation and six before Court/AG’s Department. Further, of the 80 cases of cruelty to children lodged before the Police in 2019, of which only three were disposed of, with just one conviction, 50 of those cases were still being investigated by the Police and 27 of those were before Court/AG’s Department.