Sri Lanka’s first ever child-friendly unit was set up at Ragama Police Station for the purpose of better handling and dealing with the children in need of care, attention, safety and justice after a cruel and violent treatment of them. This unit is also made women-friendly as a timely approach to guarantee the right of women to be participated and protected following a brutalized plight.
This programme was initiated by the Ministry of Law and Order and aims at setting up specially designed units at Police stations in a more child-oriented manner so the victims can feel at home to relate the harrowing experience that they had to endure.
Although many laws have been implemented with regard to the protection of children’s and women’s rights, there is hardly any mechanism to treat the victims in a friendly and cordial manner at secure surroundings at the places where the victims are dealt with in the process of seeking justice after an abuse.
Hence, this initiative deserves applaud and support from the public as well as the authorities.
A child-friendly unit should be arranged in such a manner that a juvenile victim feel comforted to spend time in the unit. It should necessarily be equipped with drinking water and sanitary facilities, rest room and a play area. The child-friendly unit can be functioned as an outhouse of a police station or as an attached building with a separate entrance, so that the children would not feel that they are entering a Police station. That will also help protect the victims from being exposed to the society which would affect the juvenile’s personality and the image in a detrimental manner.
A place which is safe, consolatory and full of atmosphere is of high importance when children are made to lodge complaints against the abuser as well as to relate the nature of the abuse in a more accurate manner.
While physically transforming the Police stations in a more child-friendly manner, training the Police officers on how to care for and treat the victims, especially children is equally important.
Children do naturally tend to fear Police and are of the opinion that only criminals and offenders are called to the Police Station to punish and the police officers treat those who go to police station in a brutal and abusive manner. This deep-rooted perception of children can cause reluctance in them to go to a police station and lodge a complaint against a prejudice faced by them. Accurate information of the crime cannot be derived from the child if he or she gets frightened of the police officers which can hinder the legal process of seeking justice and punishing the criminal.
The police officers at child-friendly units should look pleasing, kind and amiable and behave with children in an affable manner. Therefore, the assigned police officers’ skills, knowledge, attitudes and the understanding with regard to dealing with abused children should be developed through the proper training.
The authorities should also take steps to assign woman police officers to inquire the minor female victims as well as women about their sexual assault. Audio- visual verbatim records of the plaintiff should only be taken and handled by women police officers to prevent the victims from being exposed and to enable them to better explain the true incident without being embarrassed as opposed to speaking to a male police officer.
The police officers should also be trained on how to ameliorate the psychic condition of the victims after undergoing a harrowing event in life such as a sexual abuse. While attending to the victim’s complaint, redirecting the victim to his or her ordinary lifestyle has a vast significance in producing a productive and psychologically healthy child.
It is also equally important to educate the school children about all types of psychological as well as physical abuse and should be encouraged to lodge complaints against such events without facing any harassment or embarrassment from the society.
As the Minister of Law and Order Ranjith Madduma Bandara stated at the opening of the first ever child-friendly unit at the Ragama Police station, the concept should be expanded to the other Police stations across the country for the betterment of the children and women in Sri Lanka.
As the children are placed at the center of the development of country, every step should be taken for the best interest of them in order for the country to be aligned in the development trajectory.