In conversation with Prof. Harendra De Silva
In this video, Prof. Harendra De Silva – one of Sri Lanka’s best known paediatricians – speaks about the challenges to child health and safety in Sri Lanka. Speaking about malnourishment, Prof. De Silva talks about the continued manifestation of malnutrition (referring to both under nourishment as well as obesity) among children, with one of the worst records on this score in the region.
Prof. De Silva also touches on the sexual abuse of children, focussing on the sexual abuse by members of the immediate or extended family, which is more prevalent that abuse by strangers, including foreigners. As noted on the web,
Discerning that a comprehensive and directed movement to prevent every kind of child abuse in Sri Lanka would not readily arise from among the few concerned non-government agencies and professionals, Professor de Silva doggedly pursued the need for immediate national level intervention. His efforts culminated in the founding of the National Child Protection Authority in 1999, the first of its kind in South Asia.
Noting that the biggest challenge to addressing sexual abuse is the denial in society, for example when the perpetrators of child sexual abuse are members of the clergy. The statistics are chilling. Prof. De Silva notes that his studies reveal that 10% of the male population in Sri Lanka admitted to having sex with a child. He goes on to reveal how child sexual abuse impacts adult life, and the effects of the psychological scarring as a result of abuse.
We also talk about the recent debacle where the National Child Protection Authority and the Police went after an Indian nun and the Sisters of Missionaries of Charity. As was noted in the media,
“The NCPA should have taken due regard of the confidentiality of the institution and in this particular instance it had been damaged,” said Father Noel Dias, senior attorney and Vice Judicial Vicar of the archdiocese of Colombo. “The arrest is illegal and the undue publicity given has caused immense hardship to the nuns concerned and also to the entire Catholic Church,” said Neville Abeyratne, a Catholic attorney who defended the nun. “The outcome of this case has proved that the sisters are doing a humanitarian service and they are not interested in taking any action against NCPA due to their mission to serve the needy,” said Abeyratne.
Prof. De Silva provides some insight into this case and the complexity of dealing with child trafficking and adoption. He also speaks on the enduring need for the protection of women who become pregnant after being raped.