New Police Database Documents Violence Against Women and Children in Sri Lanka
November 29, 2017
The “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,” a global campaign that runs through December 10, occurs this year against the backdrop of an unprecedented global uproar against sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women face. Across Asia, as in many countries, violence against women continues to be one of the most widespread human rights violations. In places like Sri Lanka, which is emerging from decades of civil conflict, a lack of systematic reporting on the issue has made it extremely difficult to determine the magnitude of the problem.
The police are most often the first point of contact in Sri Lanka for women seeking redress from acts of violence, including sexual abuse. According to police statistics, over 33,000 cases of violence against women and children were recorded between 2005 and 2016. Incidences of rape and incest recorded by the police have increased by 40 percent in the last 10 years, from 1,463 cases in 2006 to 2,036 in 2016. However, cases reported to the police are likely very low compared to the real number of incidents that occur. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that one in every four women in Sri Lanka has been sexually abused by the time she reaches 18. When victims do report acts of violence to the police or other agencies, there are incomplete systems in place to maintain statistics and comprehensive reports.
The Children and Women’s Bureau (CWB) plays a crucial role in addressing incidents of violence against women and children that are reported to the police. Each police station has a CWB which is responsible for dealing with issues related to women and children, including prevention awareness among schools and government institutions. Each CWB sends a report to their respective Divisional Office, which is then collated and sent to the national headquarters, but the reports are largely numerically based and lack detail required for useful analysis. For instance, the current system of documentation does not allow for tracking of cases and there is no record of what happens to the case after it is recorded at a police station. This also makes it difficult for the police to track down perpetrators.
Now, in a major step forward in improving the process, The Asia Foundation worked with the police and other relevant agencies over the past year to develop the very first computerized database for the CWB in Sri Lanka. Built by local developer Tyronics, the database is connected directly to the Sri Lanka Police intranet system which means that every police station in the country has immediate and protected access to enable confidentiality. As part of this process, we developed a user manual and trained CWB police officers and headquarter staff, and IT operators from the 42 divisional offices and 488 police stations across the country.
The final database was installed to the police VPN system in March this year. Police stations island-wide now have access to the database and data is currently being entered into the system at the station level, with support from the IT unit of Sri Lanka Police.
Last month, the National Best Quality ICT Awards recognized the database and the Sri Lanka Police with a Bronze Award for innovation. With the tools in place, Sri Lanka’s police force is now better equipped to document, track, and address issues of violence against women and children.
Radhika Abeynaike is senior program officer and Roshan Shajehan is program manager for The Asia Foundation in Sri Lanka. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.
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