The price of being power-drunk
It is in the fitness of
things that President Mahinda Rajapaksa should take-up the
profoundly troubling issue of the protection and care of the
country's children because parents and elders are both horrified
and befuddled by the seeming dramatic rise in the incidence of
child abuse. Befuddled because they are at a loss to understand
whether child sexual abuse, in particular, has risen over the
years or whether the rate of detection of such crimes is now
witnessing an upsurge.
This seeming puzzle must be resolved by the state. That there
is befuddlement over the issue is proof that the authorities as
well as the majority of the public are groping in the dark, as
it were, on the principal factors behind the problem of child
abuse in this country. That is, the research on the subject is
inadequate and more needs to be done by way of studies and
investigations to unravel the roots of the disturbing
phenomenon. We suggest that the authorities get down to this
all-important undertaking without further delay because research
will reveal the tools by means of which the issue could be
Right now, however, some clear societal trends are visible
which seem to have a bearing on the problem of child abuse.
While we wait for more analytical thinking and sociological
research on this question, it would be sensible to take up the
position that the problem has its roots in also the power
relations in society.
Over the years, the more vulnerable sections, such as, women
and children have been subjected to increasing perils in degree
to the proportion to which they have been weakened. At the same
time, the powerful in society have only gained in might and
influence. The latter include sections of the political elite.
It is for this reason that more and more local level
politicians, for instance, are figuring in the murders of women
and in the sexual abuse of children.
The former have progressively gained in power and muscle,
while the latter have suffered a further diminishing of the
deference with which they were regarded, not for any fault of
theirs, but on account of the patriarchal and generally
oppressive nature of the society women and those who are seen as
vulnerable are born into. Therefore, the problem of violence
against the vulnerable cannot be studied in isolation from the
relations of power within society.
If the vulnerable are weakening further, it is mainly because
little or nothing has come out of efforts to empower them over
the years. On the other hand, if some sections of the political
elite are today wielding brute force over the comparatively
weak, it is because nothing much has been done to check the
might and muscle of these elements. Therefore, something
substantial needs to be done to alter the power balance within
society, so that the weak could be protected against those
wielding inordinate power.
Empowering those seen as weak is a fairly long term scheme
but some immediate and medium term measures could be taken to
contain the abuse of power by oppressive sections. The
power-drunk must be stopped in their tracks and one of the ways
to achieve this is to subject their power to checks and
balances. The means should be worked out to limit the influence
politicians could wield over the citizenry. Such measures need
to be enshrined in the country's constitution.
Besides, offenders and oppressors must be brought quickly to
justice. The Rule of Law must be made to reign so effectively
that criminals should be swiftly brought to book and made to pay
a prohibitive price for their transgressions.
Much could be gained by applying the law rigorously, with
exemplary fairness and impartiality.
The state, we hope, will take cognizance of the needs facing
the country in these contexts. State agencies must be
dynamically involved in putting right these glaring wrongs.
There is no ducking the need to progressively strengthen the
weak against the seeming strong. Likewise, the power-drunk must
be brought to heel with all the legitimate means at the state's