Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - EDITORIAL -

“Chil­dren need peace and pro­tec­tion at all times. The rules of war pro­hibit the un­law­ful tar­get­ing of civil­ians, at­tacks on schools or hos­pi­tals, the use, re­cruit­ment and un­law­ful de­ten­tion of chil­dren, and the de­nial of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance. When con­flicts break out, these rules need to be re­spected and those who break them need to be held to ac­count. Enough is enough. Stop at­tacks on chil­dren.” —UNICEF Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Hen­ri­etta H. Fore

The United Na­tions (UN) In­ter­na­tional Day of In­no­cent Chil­dren-vic­tims of Ag­gres­sion is ob­served on June 4 each year. Its pur­pose is to ac­knowl­edge the pain suf­fered by chil­dren, who are the vic­tims of phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional abuse and af­firms the UN’S com­mit­ment to pro­tect the rights of chil­dren the world over.

In 1997 the Gen­eral As­sem­bly adopted Res­o­lu­tion 51/77 on the Rights of the Child. It was a land­mark de­vel­op­ment in ef­forts to im­prove the pro­tec­tion of chil­dren in con­flict sit­u­a­tions.

It sig­nalled the start of a new con­sen­sus among Mem­ber States, on the need for ded­i­cated at­ten­tion, ad­vo­cacy and co­or­di­nated ef­fort, by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, to ad­dress the par­tic­u­lar vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and vi­o­la­tions faced by chil­dren in con­flict-re­lated sit­u­a­tions, the UN says.

The In­ter­na­tional Day of In­no­cent Chil­dren­vic­tims of Ag­gres­sion also cel­e­brates the mil­lions of in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing to pro­tect and pre­serve the rights of chil­dren. For ex­am­ple, the Global Move­ment for Chil­dren, with lead­er­ship from Nel­son Man­dela and Graca Machel act­ing as an inspiring force for change that in­volves or­di­nary peo­ple and fam­i­lies world­wide.

The UN says, this day is a time for in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions the world over to be­come aware of the im­pact of mon­stros­ity of abuse, in all its forms, against chil­dren and a time when or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­u­als learn from or take part in aware­ness cam­paigns centred on pro­tect­ing chil­dren’s rights.

It says, the 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment pro­vides us with the uni­ver­sal mas­ter plan to se­cure a bet­ter fu­ture for chil­dren and for the first time in­cludes a spe­cific tar­get (16.2) to end all forms of vi­o­lence against chil­dren, and end­ing the abuse, ne­glect and ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren.

Turn­ing the search­light on Sri Lanka, The Na­tional Child Pro­tec­tion Au­thor­ity (NCPA) says it re­ceives thou­sands of com­plaints of child abuse an­nu­ally. They in­clude those on cru­elty, deprivatio­n of com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion, sex­ual ha­rass­ment and mo­lesta­tion, rape and child ne­glect.

Among the sev­eral me­dia re­ports of child abuse, we highlight a few due to space re­straints; one was that of a father throw­ing his two chil­dren to the Nil­wala Ganga but for­tu­nately their lives were saved by some sol­diers who were in the vicin­ity. Then there was the case of a mother jump­ing into a river at Valaichche­nai with her two chil­dren aged three and seven. In this case the mother was saved but the chil­dren drowned. Then we heard of a drunken father bash­ing his child or other cases of chil­dren be­ing burnt by cig­a­rette butts.

It is sad when you con­sider that in all these cases the chil­dren, of­ten from poverty-stricken homes and bro­ken fam­i­lies, are the most vul­ner­a­ble to abuse by adults, whom they trusted to pro­tect them.

Amid this gloom comes the bea­con of light when tak­ing into ac­count the work car­ried out by the SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lages in Sri Lanka and those of the Sis­ters of Char­ity founded by Mother Teresa also known as the Saint of Cal­cutta and Sri Lanka’s Sis­ter Rita of Marc Sri. With self­less care and sac­ri­fi­cial ser­vice they pro­vide a lov­ing home to chil­dren and the el­derly, the aban­doned, or­phaned or badly ill, some even at the point of death.

Mean­while, we con­clude this col­umn by high­light­ing a sub­tle form of ag­gres­sion the in­no­cent chil­dren and their par­ents have to un­dergo when it comes to find­ing a proper school re­sult­ing in men­tal agony, stress and trauma. In for­eign coun­tries we have come across sev­eral in­stances of schools can­vass­ing for prospec­tive stu­dents, ad­ver­tis­ing and show­cas­ing the fa­cil­i­ties they have to of­fer to those seek­ing ad­mis­sion to what­ever the grade may be. But un­for­tu­nately in Sri Lanka, school ad­mis­sion is such a com­pli­cated and de­testable ex­pe­ri­ence in­clud­ing the ex­or­bi­tant ‘dona­tions’ par­ents are com­pelled to pay.

What bet­ter Day than this, when the United Na­tions’ (UN) marks In­ter­na­tional Day of In­no­cent Chil­dren-vic­tims of Ag­gres­sion, to urge the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter and the rel­e­vant author­i­ties to save in­no­cent chil­dren from hav­ing to un­dergo such de­vi­ous forms of ag­gres­sion when it comes to school ad­mis­sion. There is no gain­say­ing the fact that chil­dren are our fu­ture and de­serve a bet­ter deal in their search for a place in the sun. Let not a life of un­cer­tainty their des­tiny be.

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