Child abuse prevention campaign to be held throughout April in Dubai

The Dubai Foundation for Women and Children says campaign aims to encourage adults, families and communities to take action to protect children before they are harmed.

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DUBAI // A month-long campaign to raise awareness about child abuse will be launched in April.

The Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, a non-profit organisation that runs the emirate's only licensed shelter for victims of abuse, announced details of the campaign yesterday.

"We aim to prevent the physical and emotional abuse of children by mobilizing adults, families and communities to take action to protect children before they are harmed," said Fatma Essa, community awareness manager for the charity.

Brochures, books and leaflets will be distributed to parents and children between the ages of 6 and 12. The foundation will also hold events in shopping malls and schools across Dubai. This is the third year the foundation has held the campaign.

There are no reliable statistics available on the number of child abuses cases in the UAE, according to the foundation. They will, however, soon begin work to remedy this.

"Presently, we only track the statistics of the child abuse cases that enter the foundation for sheltering and counseling services," said Ms Essa. "In the meantime, we are conducting a study to assess the prevalence and magnitude of child abuse and neglect among Emiratis in UAE."

The father of Moosa Mukhtiyar Ahmed, the four-year-old who was raped and murdered at a mosque in Dubai in 2009, has lauded the campaign but says prosecutors also playe an important role in prevention.

"Perpetrators of child abuse should be strongly punished so that no other person dares to do such a crime," said Mukhtiar Ahmed Khudabakhsh.

His child's murderer, Rashid Al Rashidi, was executed by firing squad a year ago. "I don't know how to thank the Dubai Government for what they did," he said. "They provided justice to a poor person like me by by executing the killer."

The UAE government is currently working to finalise a new child protection law that will outline victims' rights as well as the punishment for abusers.

"The government is putting great efforts regarding child protection," said Ms Essa. "This includes preparing the final draft of child protection law which will cover all the issues."

The law was first drafted in December 2008, but has faced delays because of disagreements over the definition of what constitutes abuse.