Dubai officials: Raising awareness about child protection law can prevent cases of neglect

Officials said a girl complained against her parents for giving her a 'humiliating name'

Depressed sad child sitting on the floor, in the door. The little boy is hiding his head between legs.
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Parents must be aware of the country’s child protection law and should teach children about it to prevent neglect and abuse, officials and experts in Dubai have said.

This is important to ensure children's mental, physical and emotional safety, they said in an online lecture on Monday.

Maitha Al Suwaidi, a social researcher, said in some cases couples going through divorce used their children as pawns against each other.

“If families are more aware of the law, parents going through any sort of problems will know that it's not permitted to use their children as leverage,” said Ms Al Suwaidi.

“In one case, a girl lodged a complaint with us because she was given a humiliating name.

“As per the law, a child must be given a suitable name and it's this girl’s right to change her name since it was causing her humiliation among her peers.”

A senior prosecutor with Dubai's juvenile prosecution department, Shihab Ahmad, said many cases of child neglect and abuse would be prevented if there was more awareness.

“Parents need to know their rights and responsibilities and also educate their children about theirs,” he said.

A 30-year-old man approached prosecutors and reported that his parents had not obtained any official documents for him since birth, the meeting was told.

The session also heard how some children aged below 10 years were locked up in their apartments and left unsupervised.

“Parents speak of how they have long working hours, but it is their obligation to ensure their children’s safety and welfare is safeguarded to the greatest extent possible,” Mr Ahmad said.

In cases of child neglect, leading to death, the parents are charged but their circumstances are also taken into consideration, he said.

"We have to understand that no punishment is stronger than losing one’s child, and we keep this in mind when we work on cases where a child dies.”

Ms Al Suwaidi spoke about a toddler who fell to his death from a window.

“His parents did not fail in their duties and provided proper care for their child, but such an incident could have been prevented if they were more aware of safety measures necessary at home," she said.

“It's everyone’s responsibility, the media, in particular, to continue to highlight the issue of safety,” she said.

Ms Al Suwaidi said parents can also seek information and support from prosecutors, community development authorities, the police and others.

The UAE approved its child protection legislation, also known as Wadeema's Law, on March 15, 2016.

It lays out the legal rights of minors in the country and protects children, defined as anyone aged under 18, from all types of abuse, be it physical, verbal or psychological.

The law was prompted by the death of Wadeema, an 8-year-old Emirati girl buried in the Sharjah desert in 2012 after being tortured by her father and another adult.

Every year on March 15, Emirati Children’s Day, the UAE remembers Wadeema and recognises the strides made possible by the protective law.

Emirati Children’s Day celebrated on March 15 every year - in pictures

Updated: August 31, 2021, 12:59 PM