Protecting the child from abuse | Sunday Observer

Protecting the child from abuse

19 June, 2022
Bimshani Jasin Arachchi
Bimshani Jasin Arachchi

Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) for Community Policing, Environment Protection, and public Order Management Range, Western Province Child Abuse Seya Sadewmi was born on September 16, 2010 in Badalgama, Kotadeniyawa in the Western Province, and it was a few days before her 5th birthday at the time of her untimely and horrendous death on September 12, 2015.

Seya Sadewmi was reported missing from her home on the night of September 12, 2015, while she was sleeping with her mother. Subsequently, the police, with the help of sniffer dogs, found her nude body on the following day near a canal some 200 metres away from her home. The post mortem revealed that she had been sexually assaulted and later strangled to death.

Her horrific rape and murder at the young age of five sent shock waves across the nation. Seven years after this incident, which caused a stir in the country in the year 2022, another child also fell victim to such a tragedy.

Nine-year-old Fathima Ayesha was reported missing on the morning of May 27 and her parents had lodged a complaint with the Bandaragama Police in this regard.

She had gone to a meat shop close to her residence and had gone missing while returning home from the shop. The CCTV footage of a nearby shop shows that the girl had left the shop after purchasing meat. However, she had not reached home even by late evening on that day.

This was the latest news about a child missing that shocked people once again. The body of Fathima Ayesha was found the following day in a marsh close to her home, which is located in front of the Atalugama Grand Mosque.

The preliminary investigation into the incident was launched by the Bandaragama Police and later handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Subsequently a 29-year-old person from Atalugama in Bandaragama was arrested in connection with the death of the 9-year-old girl. Police said the suspect has confessed to murdering the child.

They further said that, according to the postmortem report, the victim was not raped and that it was suspected that the girl was murdered elsewhere and brought to the site where the body was found.

But how many of these little flower buds have been abused over the years? How many lives have been lost due to abuse?

In an interview with the Sunday Observer, Bimshani Jasin Arachchi, who is the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) for the Community Policing, Environment Protection, and Public Order Management Western Provinc Range, expressed her ideas about child abuse and provided us with enough information on child protection.

Q: Who is a child?

A: A child means that every citizen under the age of 18 can be identified as a child according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Then it is the responsibility of the parents to raise this child until they reach the age of 18.

Q: Parents responsibility towards their children

A: Parents are expected to demonstrate parenting skills and provide guidance regarding the child’s full activities until the child becomes an adult. In fact, parents have to educate their children for about thirteen years and guide them in the right direction during this period. In fact, the future assets of a country are its children. It is our national responsibility to nurture these children with knowledge and develop their skills in a safe environment.

Children need to be nourished physically and mentally. We also need to ensure their well-being. In fact, there are children who are being abused by those closest to them.

So not only girls but also boys in today’s society really need to be taken care of because boys as well as girls are subjected to these abuses in society. There are many reports of abuse that we hear about. Then we have found evidence that children are abused regardless of gender. Therefore, until the age of 18, we really have to raise children with care.

Q: How can parents take care of their children?

A: Children are not always supposed to stay at home. So whenever they go to school, teachers are the temporary guardians during school hours.

There are Government officials appointed to protect and take care of children. At the Divisional Secretariats, there are Child Protection Officers, Child Rights Promotion Officers, Probation Officers, Counselors, Women Development Officers, Police Officers, and many other Government officials to work for the protection of children.

So, when it comes to children, all we have to do is feel as if they are our own. Then only we will be able to provide better protection for them. We really need to nurture children not only with knowledge but also with virtues. Then only we will be able to develop the child as a good law-abiding and disciplined citizen. Also, children need to be made aware of the inequalities and abuses that exist in society. We have good examples and experience of who is really abusing these children.

Over the years of experience in the field of juvenile delinquency, I have seen that the real child abuser is someone who is often close to the child, who knows the child well, who trusts the child, and who is responsible for the child. Then we, as parents and adults, always have a great responsibility to take care of our children. We need to follow up with the children. Where are these children going? Who is collaborating? Also, whether they go to school, a tuition class, travelling in a bus, or associated with someone, parents need to do a thorough follow-up on their movements.

It is only then we can provide greater care and protection for our children. It is also possible to think of parenting skills and we need to listen to our children. Only then children will be able to talk about their grievances, troubles and problems.

If parents do not have time to talk to their children, they will not be able to follow up on their children. That is why it is important for parents to listen to and spend time with their children. This is the reason why children talk to their teachers at school about things that they do not tell their parents at home. Children are often abused if there is no follow-up on them.

Therefore, children should be looked after whenever possible. Then we can teach them how to resist abuse.

Children are children. They are immature and cannot understand society, so we, as parents, should always take care of them. Parents are fully responsible for the conduct of a child until the age of 18.

Children are unable to make independent decisions. Parents make decisions for their children. Therefore, children should be guided along the right path during their childhood. Parents have a number of duties and responsibilities regarding their children.

Q: How does one educate children about abuse? Is it suitable to make them aware of abuse?

A: Normally, when a growing child comes to know and understand things, we should teach them about crime, wrongdoing, and abuse and their rights. Children need to be made aware of this.

As I said before, many children are abused by someone that they trust and who is responsible for them. In the recent case of the Atalugama girl, the mother sends the child to the shop without realising or thinking about the child’s well being.

Such parents do not think about the safety of their children. Different people live in the society in which we live. We live in a society where human morals have been degraded.

Therefore, we have to protect our children. In a society where morals are degraded, in a society that does not think of the human dignity of others, parents have to protect their children.

It is their responsibility. We need to make sure that the child is in a safe environment at all times. When we look at criminal investigations, we have good examples and experience that the child has been abused by someone around them. We have received many such incidents.

But after a child is abused, there is no point in enforcing the law. That physical damage cannot be compensated for.

The fact that we punished the abuser does not undo the damage done to the child. Abuse is an offence against the body, so the damage to the body cannot be compensated for. When a child is physically and mentally abused, it is very difficult for the victim to recover.

Therefore, we need to teach children about abuse and how to protect themselves. Also, parents should always pay attention to their children.

Q: What can we do to protect children from abuse?

A: As law enforcement officers, we have a great responsibility to prevent this abuse in society. Prevention is better than cure. Therefore, we have to take action to prevent abuse. We must make it known to the children about such crimes and also make them aware that there are punishments for offenders.

At the same time, we must protect the privacy of the abused children.

Children need to be aware of their rights and they need to know about the legal background of the crimes against them.

So I’m saying it’s better to prevent someone from being abused than to compensate them after abuse. The legal situation regarding children in our country is very broad. But we need the collective responsibility of society as a whole to prevent this abuse.

The learning period of children is very short. Especially at this period and age, girls need to be disciplined. Children need to be put on the right track. Our investigations have revealed instances where children have unnecessarily trusted the outside world and become victims of crime.

Also, children should be made aware of how to dedicate their childhood to education and how to overcome the future without falling prey to drugs and so on.

Q: What are the duties of the responsible Government officers?

A: Government officers have launched awareness programs through committees and sub-committees on child protection, child abuse, prevention of violence against women and the prevention of drug abuse.

At the same time, it has also launched rehabilitation programs for drug addicts. We also hope to conduct awareness programs on child and women’s crime prevention, especially in this regard.

In the future, steps will be taken to identify and protect vulnerable children, especially in the Colombo District and to identify crime and abuse cases in the Western Province. Even now, steps are being taken and much work is being done towards this end.