11/02/2023, 20.00
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Online violence against children is growing in Sri Lanka with no law to stop it

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

According to Save the Children, “three out of every ten children interviewed in the study have experienced some sort of online violence”, ranging from cyberbullying to child trafficking and child pornography. The country has no legislation in the matter.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Online violence against children is rising in Sri Lanka but the country does not have adequate legislative to address the problem.

The range of crimes is alarming, according to experts, ranging from cyberbullying to child trafficking and child pornography. Without proper laws, the problem is likely to grow.

According to a committee established by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to study how to develop effective protections for minors, these crimes are currently barely touched by the country’s penal code.

According to a 2021 study by Save the Children, “three out of every ten children interviewed in the study have experienced some sort of online violence.”

The study also found that parents tend to “lack awareness” of the digital landscape. Most had limited knowledge of digital tools and were unfamiliar with the risks and unable to put in place safeguards.

“Current measures to deal with harmful content on social media sites are insufficient given the seriousness of the scope and scale of offensive content directly or indirectly targeting children,” said scholar Kavinda Amarasuriya, speaking to AsiaNews.

“An independent commission could address the issue through its mandate and powers, especially, in demanding corrective measures from users,” he added.

“Sri Lanka is way behind in tackling an issue that is increasing every day, a child protection issue evolving every second due to the nature of online platforms and digital media.”

Meanwhile, lawyer Tharushi Gamlath believes that “Sri Lanka is already challenged when responding to conventional child protection issues and the online space has received even less attention.”

For this reason, “it is necessary for the authorities to be involved to extend beyond the traditional law enforcement authorities, including the police, child protection and probation officers.” At the same time, “difficult decisions need to be taken and appropriate measures should be implemented properly.

For Tharushi, “Internet service providers need to be regulated, so they can detect and block harmful websites”.”

According to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), which looks at child abuse laws worldwide, Sri Lanka is one of 25 countries in the world without proper legislation to stop and respond to child abuse material.

Technology-facilitated materials require a more sophisticated approach beyond the provisions of Sri Lanka’s penal code (which can only punish offenders).

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