The advent of the computer and the internet among the young people in Sri Lanka as a modern tool for acquiring knowledge has complicated problems regarding protection of children. With the global focus on child pornography, abuse and sexual exploitation globally, Sri Lanka was rudely awakened to the hazards of using the internet and legal reforms had to be effected to resolve this issue.
Cybercrimes with its highly sophisticated technological nature needed technical service providers for investigations. Internet social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs have enticed the younger generation since they can be accessed from the physical safety of the study table in their own room to chat and overcome the boredom of examination and study, unaware that such associations could lead them to harm.
New trends have emerged as a result making the naive rural young children vulnerable to harmful behaviours of the more sophisticated and worldly urban adults. Promises of greener pastures to relieve themselves of the burdens of poverty, higher incomes, even the need to get a better education are used to take the children away from their safe family environment. Sometimes parents themselves are enticed by these hopes and dreams and willingly encourage the children to grab these opportunities.
A further step towards promoting the welfare of children at national level is in the making as a National Policy for Children was developed by enthusiastic groups to continue lobbying for a better tomorrow for children.
In terms of travel and tourism, the vulnerability of children to be sexually exploited has intensified.
- Root causes leading to sexual exploitation of children at family and community level are addressed and remedied with the active involvement of family and community.
- Transformation of attitudes of families and communities who have been passive onlookers become active protectors of children against sexual exploitation.
- Economically disadvantaged vulnerable families and communities gain economic security through alternative sources of income and livelihood opportunities.
- Community based safety mechanisms help build a peaceful and protective environment conducive to the safety of children.
- Family and community have recourse to legal remedies to seek redress from law enforcement mechanisms.
The ultimate goal of this programme is to create a violence free, peaceful environment for children affirming zero tolerance against all forms of child sexual exploitation. The perpetrators of sexual exploitation of children will be brought before the law and potential perpetrators will be deterred from committing the crime, as the criminal justice system is strictly enforced in a skilful and efficient manner within a progressive legal, policy and regulatory framework. Selected CBOs, NGOs, coalitions and networks in the 12 districts capacitated to effectively implement preventive and curative programme strategies to combat sexual exploitation.
The programme is implemented at national, provincial, district, divisional and Grama Niladari Division (lowest government institution at village) levels. The programme will be implemented as a child led initiative wherever possible. Programme outputs and activities address the need for appropriate legislation, lobbying for new laws as and when necessary, streamlining the prosecution and law enforcement process on one hand and strengthening and empowering the community, family and individual to combat sexual exploitation of children online (SECO) and sexual exploitation in travel and tourism (SECTT) at the initial level by targeting children at risk.
Children themselves are empowered to act as change makers and amplify a collective children’s voice against sexual exploitation and inspire the Sri Lankan child population at large to safeguard themselves against this grave crime. The root causes that expose children to sexual exploitation are successfully addressed to affect a shift in the consciousness of families and communities from condoning to condemning the crime. A safety net is laid at family and community level to protect children from all social evils.
As a programme that predominantly addresses systemic changes in law, policy and regulatory framework and law enforcement, the sustainability of the programme would be reflected in the visibility of long lasting changes at national and provincial levels with ripple effects on the individual, family and community levels. Increased efficiency in the governance structure and the delivery of services for children will provide children with protection against SECO and SECTT.