Author Topic: "Dwindling child population needs greater protection"  (Read 1600 times)

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Offline sithari

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"Dwindling child population needs greater protection"
« on: August 18, 2006, 06:53:55 PM »
Extracts from the speech given by Walter Laduwahetty, Outgoing President of Child Protection Society at the 76th Annual General Meeting

"A few matters of relevance where children are concerned may be noted.

There has been considerable publicity given in the press recently to matters such as Sri Lankan Children being at the risk of exploitation, to child sex, tourism and child labour.

Anyone concerned with the welfare of children should be concerned with these matters in view of the nature of these problems and their extensive, though perhaps hidden, prevalence.

It is estimated that approximately 70,000 children between the ages of 5 years and 14 years are in the high risk category of exploitation as child labourers in Sri Lanka.

This has been disclosed at the Commemoration of the World Day Against Child Labour which was organised by the ILO in its 1999 report.

This figure does not include children categorised as unpaid family workers. These family workers may sometimes be exposed to even hazardous forms of child labour of the age group 5-17 years has decreased from 246 million in the year 2000 to 218 million in 2004 - a decrease of 11%.

The number of children engaged in hazardous work is said to have declined by 26% while the percentage of children in the age group 5-14 years is said to have dropped by 33%.

Even if one were to accept the accuracy of these figures, the numbers are yet daunting and a challenge to individuals and organisations devoted to child welfare.

Although Parliament has passed legislation to give effect to immediately eliminate the worst forms of child labour in keeping with the commitment made to implement ILO Conventions 120 and 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, this is but the first step.

Many a law which adorns the statute book may not be effectively implemented for diverse reasons. This is not an unknown experience both in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

Lack of adequate resources, human and material, lack of public awareness, lethargy of the law enforcers are some of the reasons for this.

Further economic factors like poverty are endemic in society and despite various efforts that a substantial percentage of the population is below the poverty line together with the lack of education and gainful employment are problems to which solutions cannot be found on a short term basis.

Take the case of Child Sex Tourism. The sexual exploitation of children is a sad reality particularly in some of the developing countries.

The rapid growth of international tourism is not an economic boom for most tourist destinations. It produces negative socio-economic impacts and manifests itself in the exploitation of children through sex tourism.

According to one UN estimate more than one million children in the world are annually forced into sexual practices. UNICEF estimates that one million children enter the multi million sex trades every year.

Sri Lanka can be happy we were one of the first to formulate a national plan to combat the menace of child sex tourism making zero tolerance on child exploitation. More publicity should be given to this plan and one hopes it will be implemented effectively.

The plan to combat Child Sex Tourism was launched by UNICEF along with the Sri Lanka Tourist Board and the National Child Protection Authority along with certain Ministries and private sector institutions on June 18th at the BMICH. We are happy that Sri Lanka was the first country in South Asia to come out with such an action plan.

But a plan will remain at the level of a plan unless effectively implemented with adequate resources and committed personnel. Being a two year project it will have a meaningful impact if all the agencies involved will commit themselves to do their best for the children.

Another problem is the impact of war on children. We have gained considerable notoriety of having child soldiers with certain armed groups - a practice which has been internationally condemned.

Such condemnation does not appear to have had any effect and armed groups appear to carry on regardless of such condemnation. It was alleged quite recently that children had shot and killed several unarmed civilians as a matter of shooting practice.

This shows the depth of human degradation. What these young killing machines will turn out to be in the years ahead no one knows."

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