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Child abuse incidents reported in the media in November 2023: Sexual abuse prevails; child suicide on the rise

Child abuse incidents reported in the media in November 2023: Sexual abuse prevails; child suicide on the rise

29 Dec 2023 | BY PEaCE/ECPAT Sri Lanka

This information is the result of the aggregation and verification of cases of violence against children reported in the media for November of this year (2023). The information gathered by skimming through various media outlets is on 86 such incidents, which fall under 11 main categories of violence against children and these cases included 106 child abuse victims. 

According to our data, the highest number of reported incidents is related to sexual abuse, accounting for 29 cases of all reported cases. Following close behind is physical abuse, with 13 reported incidents. It is distressing to note that incidents of child suicide have taken the third place. 

According to our aggregated data, victims of child abuse are at increased risk of acting on suicidal ideation. Poor mental health, financial difficulties, poor coping skills or deciding on a suicide plan due to child abuse were associated with most of the cases. 

In November, 53 victims of child abuse were girl children while 30 were boy children. The gender of 23 victims was unspecified in the reports. Out of the 86 incidents reported, 32 victims are in the age group category of 15-18 years and 31 victims were in the age group of 11-14 years of age. 

In a report published on 20 November 2023, the Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of the Western Province stated that at least 5,000 crimes related to children are being reported per year in Sri Lanka. He further stated that several of the crimes were a result of the use of drugs and mobile phones. In another appalling report from 21 November 2023, the Police Children and Women’s Bureau stated that 917 children have been sexually abused in the last nine months.

Types of child abuse incidents

Out of the 86 incidents gathered, we reaffirm that sexual abuse has been the highest crime against children in November 2023, with 29 incidents. Second in place is the physical abuse of children recording 13 incidents and third in place is the number of suicide cases among children which is also on the rise with nine such cases being reported, most of them due to some form of child abuse. Followed by that is eight incidents that had occurred due to negligence. Seven incidents of the abduction of children have also been reported during the period. Six cases of drug abuse have been reported while five cases each of emotional abuse and children going missing have been reported. Two cases of sexual exploitation, a case of attempted suicide and one case of child trafficking have been reported. According to some disturbing reports, a 40-year-old three-wheeler driver has sexually abused a seven-year-old school girl and in another disturbing report, a 14-year-old girl has gone over to meet an unknown man she had come across on Facebook. Fortunately, when he was about to commit the crime of sexual abuse, her uncle who had seen the couple meet, had followed them, which had resulted in the suspect being arrested. In another shocking incident, six people including a 14-year-old girl’s grandfather who is 80-years-old have been arrested since they had been sexually abusing this girl for a period spanning over four years. In another incident, a 14-year-old girl has been sexually abused by three family members including her own father. According to a report by the Police, a girl in grade one has been raped by a three-wheel driver while taking her to school and the Police has also arrested a 48-year-old married man who sexually abused a 13-year-old boy by showing him porn videos. In another incident, the Police has arrested a 16-year-old boy for abducting and sexually abusing his 16-year-old girlfriend. In the recent past, several violent incidents where both the victims and the perpetrators are under the age of 18 years have shown an upward trend. According to a report published by the Police Children and Women’s Bureau, a total of 131 girls below the age of 16 have fallen victim to sexual abuse during October, 2023, and even more distressing is that 10 of the victims are also pregnant. As reported in the media, the Government authorities, in a significant move to address the rising concerns of child abuse, are mulling a new syllabus for sex education in schools.

Category wise, an array of incidents was reported in the media during November, 2023. The category of sexual abuse involved 28 victims. Seventeen victims of child negligence have been reported while 15 victims have experienced physical abuse and 13 victims have been subjected to child trafficking. Unfortunately, nine victims have committed suicide. Sadly, the category of child suicide is on the rise. Eight victims of abductions have been reported and seven children have gone missing. Five child victims have been subjected to emotional abuse and two victims have been sexually exploited. There have been reports of one victim each in the categories of drug abuse and attempted suicide.

According to the reports gathered from media outlets, the girl child has been the most abused and stands out at 53 victims while abuse cases of boys stand at 30 victims. However, the media has not specified the gender of 23 victims of child abuse and these victims belonged to five groups.

The age category of children between 15 to 18 years has been the most affected with 32 victims, followed close behind by the age category of 11 to 14-year-olds with 31 victims. Sadly, the above mentioned two age categories have constantly been the most vulnerable. The age category of six to 10-years-old comprises 18 victims while the age category of one to five-years-old comprises four victims and the age category of zero-12-months-old includes one victim.

Based on the data gathered, 74 perpetrators are responsible for these incidents and the majority of them are persons very well known to the victims accounting for 41 numbers which included eight groups while seven of the perpetrators belonged to the victim’s immediate family or people who are close relatives. Four of the perpetrators have been strangers and the relationships or connections of 22 individuals were not specified in the media reports. These 22 individuals belonged to four groups. The data shows that the highest number of incidents was related to the sexual abuse of children with a total of 31 perpetrators, including two groups. The responsible parties for these sexual abuse cases vary from family members such as fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, boyfriends, soldiers, friends, neighbours and a few unknown individuals. Physical abuse is the second predominant category with 29 perpetrators involved. This category comprises violence perpetrated by various individuals, including fathers, mothers, stepfathers, teachers, fellow students, and the mother's paramour. During November, nine individuals have been involved in seven cases of child abduction which is a category of concern in the last couple of months. Three individuals have also been caught red-handed selling addictive substances to school children. Other notable categories of perpetrators include two persons involved in the negligence and sexual exploitation of children.

According to the data, the District of Kalutara has recorded the highest number of crimes against children, accounting for 13 numbers while the District of Puttalam has recorded the second highest with 11 incidents. The Districts of Colombo and Mullaitivu have recorded the third highest number of cases while accounting for seven each, whilst the Kurunegala, Kandy, Gampaha, Nuwara Eliya and Moneragala Districts have significantly high numbers of reported incidents, accounting for five numbers each of the total incidents. The Districts of Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Galle and Jaffna have a moderate number of reported incidents, each accounting for three to four numbers of the total incidents. The Districts of Ampara, Hambantota, Mannar, Matale, Matara, Ratnapura, Trincomalee and Vavuniya reported one to two incidents each. The Districts of Kilinochchi, Badulla, Kegalle and Polonnaruwa did not report a single incident during November, 2023.

Accidents involving children

In November, a two-year-old baby had drowned in the pool of a small tourist resort in Bentota due to the negligence of his parents and guardians. In a similar accident, a six-year-old girl had drowned in a pool in a tourist resort in Baduraliya, Kalutara, due to the negligence of her parents. Once again, due to negligence, an innocent girl child aged two years had drowned in a water tank in Moneragala, Kumarawatta. In another pathetic situation, two girls aged 10 and 16 years were victims of a landslide in Balangoda in which the entire family was wiped out. A 16-year-old boy who had been addicted to drugs had fallen from the third floor of the Serpentine apartment complex in Borella and had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the National Hospital. Once again, under similar circumstances to an incident that occurred in October, a parapet wall in a school in Orugodawatte, Wellampitiya, had collapsed, killing one student aged six and seriously injuring six more female students, of whom one was in a critical condition. The saddest part of this tragedy is that that day happened to be the birthday of the victim who succumbed to her injuries. It is unfortunate that schools and educational authorities do not check the surroundings of schools and their infrastructure to protect these innocent children. In a distressing accident at the Kahathuduwa-Polgasowita junction, a collision between a bus and a luxury van resulted in six individuals sustaining injuries which included a school girl.

(Protecting Environment and Children Everywhere - PEaCE / End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism - ECPAT - Sri Lanka is a non-Governmental organisation focused on child protection by way of ending the sexual abuse and exploitation of children)


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.

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