Emirati Children's Day honours landmark achievement for UAE's legal system

The occasion is held on March 15 in recognition of the UAE's efforts to protect children's rights

Emirates, March 14, 2021.  Emirati Children's Day lights on Corniche Road.
Victor Besa/The National
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It was on March 15, 2016, that a ray of hope emerged from the darkest of days.

It was on this date that the UAE approved Child Protection Law 3, widely known as Wadeema law.

The key legislation set out to protect the rights of children and safeguard them from all forms of abuse.

It was prompted by the tragic case of Wadeema, an 8-year-old Emirati girl whose death shocked a nation when she was found buried in the Sharjah desert in 2012, after being tortured by her father, Hamad Al Shirawee and another suspect.

Every March 15, the UAE remembers Wadeema and recognises the strides made due to the protective law through Emirati Children's Day.

The annual day was launched by Sheikha Fatima, chairwoman of the General Women's Union and president of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood (SCMC), in 2018.

The law protects Emiratis and residents and lays out the legal rights of minors in the UAE. It is designed to protect children until the age 18 from all types of abuse, including physical, verbal and psychological abuse.

In the years since it brought into force, the UAE has sought to take significant strides to protect young members of society.

The law was further strengthened in December, 2018 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.

The Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai issued a cabinet resolution that included 23 clauses regulating the training and employment of minors, procedures for reporting offences against children, conditions for becoming a child welfare officer and obligations that must be met by families fostering children.

Emirates, March 14, 2021.  Emirati Children's Day lights on Corniche Road.
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
Emirates, March 14, 2021. Emirati Children's Day lights on Corniche Road. Victor Besa/The National Section: NA

The legislation stipulates that children under the age of 15 cannot be granted employment. Those over the age of 15 can apply to work with the written consent of their parents or legal guardian.

In November 2019, the Ministry of Education launched a Child Protection Unit to tackle negligence and abuse both in school and at home.

The unit boasts a team of specialists tasked with intervening in cases involving at-risk children, offering support to families and delivering education and rehabilitation.

Earlier this year, the country's leaders took steps to address the impact of online abuse.

The National Policy for Quality of Digital Life, launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, with the aim of creating a safe and positive environment for young people spending an increasing amount of time online.

The policy will be taught at government schools from nursery to grade 12 by being incorporated into subjects including moral education, social studies, Islamic education and computer sciences.

Material will also be given to parents so they may learn to protect themselves and their children.

Ahead of Emirati Children's Day, the Ministry of Community Development enlisted experienced writers to help young scribes compose short stories centred on the theme of children's rights.

The ministry has also worked closely with the UAE Special Olympics Foundation on a programme to support those of all ages with disabilities against abuse.

Law offers broader protection of children

An Emirati lawyer said the UAE's legal system has bolstered the rights of children.

“UAE has issued several laws in order to ensure the best interest of a child,” said Ali Al Hammadi

“These include the Federal Law number 28 of the year 2005 regarding Personal Status Law and Federal Law number 3 of the year 2016 regarding child protection which was previously referred to as Wadeema Law.”

“If we talk specifically about the Child Protection Law, we can say it provides a broader network of protection for children’s rights and also involves all departments across the country to co-operate according to certain guidelines in order to further protect children from all forms of abuse or harm.”

Families celebrating Emirati Children’s Day 2021 - in pictures