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Wednesday, 18 July 2012






Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

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 managed.

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 disposal.

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