Child rights on Children’s Day | Sunday Observer

Child rights on Children’s Day

26 September, 2021

While children are still confined to their homes due to the pandemic and when teachers are on strike demanding salary increases leaving thousands of children destitute, the time has come to rethink child rights in Sri Lanka as we prepare to celebrate Children’s Day on October 1.

It has been a challenging time for children when their right to education is deprived due to natural causes as well as man-made.

While being confined to their homes, children are increasingly becoming exposed to the digital world, and vulnerable to crimes on cyber space. As this happens in an invisible world, it has been difficult to track culprits. It is more challenging when children and parents are not equipped to identify a crime.

Another issue is that records of victimised children in Sri Lanka had so far been kept on paper without a digital database, which makes legal processes, tracking, follow ups and prevention more tedious and time consuming.

Several programs

However, marking Children’s Day, the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) will launch several programs to address these issues, including the launch of the national database supported by Sri Lanka Telecom, to smoothen all processes when ensuring child rights.

NCPA Chairman Prof. Muditha Vidanapathirana said, “The launch of the national database is a long-awaited endeavour. It took us 23 years to complete this.”

The database has four components. The first is on the complaints that the NCPA receive. “We receive complaints through 1929, WhatApp messages through 0773220032, email, fax, and when people physically visit the NCPA. Up to now, the data was manually entered. In the future, complaints will be entered automatically to the national database,” Prof. Vidanapathirana said.

The second component is with regard to police complaints. “We get about 8,000 complaints a year. The Police get about 5,000 complaints a year.

Whenever a case is reported to the Police, they have to inform back to the NCPA within 24 hours. Usually, these are faxed. In the future, all 498 police stations through the Children and Women’s Bureau OIC have to enter the information to the database,” he said.


The third component of the database is regarding video evidence recording. Instead of reporting to courts, victimised children can give evidence through videos recorded by the NCPA. The NCPA has only one centre for such recordings but will develop nine in total in the near future. With the national database launched on October 1, victimised children will also have the opportunity to give live evidence digitally to courts without having to visit. Both video recordings and live evidence will be uploaded through the database.

The fourth component is regarding prevention. “Not only do we need to address issues of abused children, but one of our main functions is prevention. For that, we need to identify vulnerable children,” said Prof. Vidanapathirana.

He identified four types of vulnerable children: vulnerable, at risk, marginalised and invisible. The latter are in thousands in the community as most children do not come forward with complaints. “For that, we have to go to the community.

The NCPA has officers up to district and divisional level. But at village level, there are 14,021 Grama Niladharis (GNs), 14,000 economic development officers, 14,000 GN level police officers attached to each GN Division - named as community police officer - and 6,834 public health midwives.

They will provide evidence of vulnerable children and we can plan necessary interventions. All details of vulnerable children at village level can be uploaded to the system and together we can plan suitable projects.”

Foster care

In addition, the NCPA is in the process of developing a foster care system. The concept paper was developed with 105 community stakeholders. Now, the NCPA is in the process of including their views to develop the Foster Care Act so that the authority can support vulnerable children. A draft will be launched on October 1.

Another long-awaited endeavour of a payment gateway will also be launched on Children’s Day after which the NCPA child fund would have easy access to international and local donors. It will be tax free and comes after a Gazette notification of Parliament. “This was already mentioned in our Act but we were not able to fulfill it for the last 23 years,” the Chairman said.

Creating awareness on children with ‘invisible disabilities’ is also a priority for the NCPA. “Last year, in Aluthgama, an autistic child was arrested for committing an offence but the Police did not identify him as a child with an ‘invisible disability’. Children cannot be arrested under our law. They assumed that this was an adult who is misbehaving. Based on that, we developed a booklet of 20 pages called ‘A Guide to Identify Invisible Disability’ in all three languages,” Prof. Vidanapathirana said, adding that this too will be published on the day.


With reports of children being addicted to video games in recent times, the NCPA has come up with an innovative idea to safeguard children from cybercrimes by using the gaming platform. A mobile game is developed by a private company with the support of Sarvodaya, Leads, Child Fund and World Vision as a counter measure to children abusing the internet.

“We will introduce a mobile game to teach children on how they can get away from cybercrime. It is a game where they can play and learn. They can identify cybercrime and learn how to complain,” the Chairman added.

The NCPA website will also upgrade and launch on Children’s Day as a mobile phone-friendly site. A leading company spearheads this task as a CSR program. “We will improve the security of the website. At present, we have http but it will be https adding security. For that, we have purchased the SSL certificate and the system will be developed by October 1,” the Chairman said.

“We are handling cases effectively and swiftly by adopting the latest technology to achieve justice for children,” he added.


Since 2001, the NCPA had a Cyber Research Unit but in 2020 March, it was expanded to Cyber Surveillance where the NCPA can act not only on complaints but also survey the cyber space for any cases of child abuse. Almost half the cases investigated are found through this surveillance where cases are mostly sexual abuse ranging from indecent behaviour, release of pornographic pictures, cyber bullying and cyber stalking.

“Not only cancelling the online account of a culprit, we can also investigate into the person’s physical location and take legal action with sentencing up to imprisonment. In case the NCPA is unable to proceed with investigations, we hand the case over to the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), CID, the Colombo University, Forensics Department, California/Singapore Facebook mother companies and so on to identify culprits and bring them to courts. We also send information to the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission,” Prof. Vidanapathirana said.

Children can be protected in the physical and cyber space only if they identify an offence and report it to relevant authorities. Growing up online offers limitless opportunities. If used correctly, the internet has the potential to broaden horizons and ignite creativity. But with opportunities come serious risks. It has never been easier for child sex offenders to contact their potential victims. Therefore, parents and children should be equally equipped with the knowledge and right resources to identify an offence and report it immediately before children are further exposed to heinous crimes.