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NPP urges holistic child protection institutional reforms

  • Advises Govt. to move beyond ‘piecemeal’ legal reforms

By Pamodi Waravita

National People’s Power (NPP) Opposition MP Dr. Harini Amarasuriya in Parliament yesterday (21) urged the Government to not limit itself to “piecemeal” legal reforms with regard to child protection laws, but to also consider the efficient functioning of child protection institutions through the allocation of sufficient funds and a thorough review of the regulatory mechanisms through which these institutions are expected to perform their functions.

“While we support essential and important reforms of laws concerning the protection of children, I urge you to regard child protection as a subject where multi-sector collaboration is essential. The point is to not just reform the law but also to implement these reforms, especially at child protection institutions,” explained Dr. Amarasuriya.

“I have been to many of these institutions and the situation of the children in these institutions is completely unacceptable. There are huge delays in the processing of cases. More than that is the question of the treatment they undergo, where they are ostensibly sent for rehabilitation, but are subjected to further abuse because of the lack of care and protection. That cannot be fixed just by legal reform, but needs to be done through a collaborative effort where child protection is understood in a holistic manner.”

She was speaking during the debate where the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Justice Reforms presented the Youthful Offenders (Training Schools) (Amendment) Bill in Parliament, where Justice Minister President’s Counsel (PC) M.U.M. Ali Sabry said that the said amendments are aimed at ensuring that child protection norms are adhered to, especially in the case of female children.

“For instance, you spoke about certified remand homes that are there for children, but for many decades now, people have been fighting to increase resources for these institutions, because, often, the children who are placed in them face much greater problems than the cause that sent them there in the first place,” Dr. Amarasuriya pointed out.

She urged the Government to pay special attention to the implementation of these laws “because the implementation cannot happen just through legal reform”.

The Ministerial Consultative Committee on Justice also presented a Bill in Parliament yesterday to amend the Penal Code to yet again affirm the death sentence not being given to minors and to replace the sentencing of such convicted minors to be detained at the President’s pleasure, as is currently the case, with custodial sentences.