DUBAI // Twenty-five cases of physical assaults on children were reported to the Child Protection Centre in the first three months of this year.
But reports of sexual violence against minors were less prevalent, dropping from 19.5 per cent of total cases in 2014 to 12.5 per cent last year.
Bushra Qayed, head of the centre, said most of the sexual abuses reported were inflicted by someone outside the family.
“Cases were largely found outside the home,” Ms Qayed said.
“It could be nannies, friends and other teenagers, since these incidents include children up to the age of 18.”
With physical assault, she said welfare workers were careful to discriminate between it and acceptable parental discipline.
“Beating is the most common form. If it is repetitive then it is a problem,” Ms Qayed said.
The figures have been released by the Community Development Authority to increase awareness of the Child Rights Law, which came into effect this month.
Negligence was the leading type of child abuse in 2014 and last year. Cases included children being left at home alone, prevented from attending school, and some cases of malnutrition found by doctors.
As many as 37 per cent of cases in 2014 and 27 per cent last year were of negligence.
Children between the ages of 7 and 9 were the most vulnerable to abuse last year, followed by those between 4 and 6.
More than half the reports received last year were about Emirati children, followed by those from other Arab nations.
About 79 cases covering Emirati children were reported in 2014, 76 last year and 40 up to April this year. For expatriates, those figures were 44 in 2014 and last year, and 20 this year.
Khaled Al Kamda, director general of the authority, said Emiratis were now more likely to report because the centre was regarded as more approachable than police and more people knew about it.
“People tend to shy away from reporting. That will change with the new law because there will be a clear responsibility of reporting by anyone in contact with children – doctors, nurses, teachers and neighbours.”
Ten children called the centre last year, compared with only one in 2014, Ms Qayed said.
“Most phone calls to report cases are from fathers and mothers, with some calls from schools,” she said. “In divorce disputes, the children become the victim and our ultimate responsibility is the child’s interest.”
Mr Al Kamda said children who were victims of serious abuse would be housed with relatives when the centre intervened.
“We are not here to take the child away from the family to a shelter. We are not building shelters for children,” he said.
“The best environment for the child is the family, unless clearly the child is at risk from the guardian who is supposed to protect him. Then we will take the child to safety to the extended family for care.”
People with child-rights breaches or abuse cases registered against them would not be allowed to work with children, in line with international law, he said.
The CDA plans to train teachers to spread awareness among pupils and coordinate with associations of different countries to create awareness about spotting and reporting abuse.
Cases involving children in other emirates received on the Dubai centre’s 800988 hotline and email firstname.lastname@example.org are transferred to the relevant authorities.
More than 300 cases have been logged by the centre since it opened in 2013.