There is undoubtedly a horrendous mounting crime wave in the country – politically motivated killings, homicides for personal reasons, abductions, rapes and crimes committed against the most vulnerable of all – children. Crimes committed against the little ones received the least publicity but of late the horrendous nature of the bestial acts committed on them has deservedly received unprecedented publicity.
News reports say that the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) had received 2,300 complaints of child abuse for the first six months last year.
Going by daily reports of crimes against children it is regrettable to assume that it would be much more. Reports of senile men and even younger men preying on children were extremely rare a few decades ago but now the media has such reports almost on a daily basis. Even infants have not been spared of such bestiality.
Huge funds are invested in child protection in most countries, particularly in the West, but in this paradise isle the priorities are for security and the military. There are a few organisations such as the NCPA, Save the Children and Plan Lanka which are committed to saving the Sri Lankan child but how much of assistance is received by these organisations is not known. The government recruited 360 officers – graduates specialised in child psychology, sociology and associated fields – for child protection, it was reported last week but much more investment should be forthcoming if children, whom everyone loves, are to be saved from human vultures.
Children often called the ‘flowers of the nation’ should get top priority in the ‘save the children exercise’ but it is also important to investigate reasons for this upsurge of child abuse by men who are overtly sane and sober individuals but covertly have acquired split personalities of sex perverts. Is this a new occurrence in the personality of Sri Lankan men or was there a hidden bestial potential in them? These are questions which psychologists, sociologists, criminologists and the like should investigate. Is it the change of environment in this peaceful and placid island of around 10 million men in the sixties to a maddening jostling sweathouse of 21 million today? Has the pressure of modern life, the struggle to earn a living for oneself and the family, pushing the Sri Lankan man to the brink of a mental abyss?
Women – to their credit – by and large appear to have retained their mental and sexual equilibrium. Or are we experiencing the calm before the storm?
Sri Lankans of both sexes, at least externally, have developed a nonchalant attitude towards sex. This attitude is best summarised in the saying: We are Sri Lankans, we do not like sex. This pious but hypocritical attitude is laid bare in the many instances where they have been caught with their pants down. Even those in their pious white national garb calling for Sinhala modesty among women on public platforms have not been able to resist the urge to merge. One of their kind, a member of the ruling party is among 15 suspects charged before court for the alleged involvement in the abduction and rape of a 14 year old girl. They are alleged to have raped the girl for several days at guest houses and tourist hotels.
In this 21st Century where the mass media particularly the electronic variety breathes sex out through every pore, can sex be ignored? However, sex education, so essential for children to protect themselves, is unheard of in most schools.
Young boys have not been spared by some of their school teachers and principals! The surest way to protect the young is to impart sex education to them and tell them of the ways and wiles of perverts. It is a simple task and not rocket science.
Most of the victims are abjectly poor children and may not be attending school. These are the most vulnerable. Even parents sell their children because they cannot afford their upkeep while knowing full well the consequences. It will be the task of volunteer organisations such as the National Child Protection Authority to reach out and help the poorest of the poor children save themselves.
The police no doubt have a significant role to play but under no circumstances should they be entrusted with duties of moral policing the children. Their functions should be clearly defined. There have been reports of police assuming the role of strict moral disciplinarians such as on Galle Face Green where they order couples to move out of their seats or fold up their umbrellas in order to ensure that there is no hanky-panky going on behind the umbrellas! An umbrella on Galle Face Green appeared, at one time, to be considered a ‘dangerous weapon’.
Certainly if the modesty of our law enforcers are outraged by couples on the Green, such strictures could be justified but surely an open umbrella to protect lovers from the scorching sun should give no such cause for concern. The police should catch rapists and perverts not lovers.
The Rajapaksa regime should view this problem of child abuse from a very wide angle. The puritanical attitude towards sex should be discarded and a much more liberal and scientific approach adopted. It should not be viewed as an exercise in vote catching by whipping up fanatical puritans to call for the blood of those liberals who are sympathetic towards basic human desires.
The art, literature and history of both Sinhalese and Tamils reveal a very liberal and broadminded attitude towards sex. The anti-sex attitude is often attributed to the strict morality enforced by the western conquistadores. The immediate challenge is to protect the endangered children from abuse. But it would be hard to do that if sex perverts keep proliferating