No issue with photographing others if child safety is at risk, says CDA head

The Community Development Authority has reiterated that a child’s safety is paramount, while cautioning that photographs should be taken by passengers and sent to the police.
Parents can be fined Dh400 with four black points on their licence if children are found in the front seat. Reem Mohammed / The National
Parents can be fined Dh400 with four black points on their licence if children are found in the front seat. Reem Mohammed / The National

DUBAI // A community welfare group’s appeal to residents to take photographs of children seated on a driver’s lap or in the front seat has sparked a spirited debate on an individual’s right to privacy and a child’s right to safety.

The Community Development Authority has reiterated that a child’s safety is paramount while also cautioning that photographs should be taken by passengers and only sent to the police. Others have asked for the law banning children under 10 from being seated in the front of vehicles to be strictly implemented.

“At the end of the day if the child’s life is in danger, I think the person himself (driver) has given up his right of privacy,” said Khaled Al Kamda, director general of the CDA.

“But it’s very important that these pictures should not be broadcast on social media or distributed to anyone, it should be given to authorities and the police will take action.”

The Child Protection Law, or Wadeema’s Law, that came into effect in June allows residents to report to authorities any incident or behaviour that may harm a child.

The opposing view rests on the country’s strong privacy laws that warns against publishing a photograph without a person’s permission and can lead to imprisonment and fines.

Mr Kamda said it is every resident’s duty to protect children, which includes taking a photograph of a father driving with a child on his lap and sending it to the police.

“The law says any act that puts a child’s life in danger should be reported by everyone, a teacher, doctor, anyone living here. So taking such photos, to me, it’s mandatory. The aim is very clearly to protect the child. It [photograph] should be taken by someone who is not driving because we don’t want people putting themselves in danger.

“We shouldn’t think it’s not our business. It should be reported to the authorities.”

Mr Kamda recommended educating the community on child safety and the hefty fines they can face when rules were flouted.

The World Heath Organisation recommended last year that the UAE introduce a law to make child car seats and seat belts for all compulsory.

According to UAE law, parents can be fined Dh400 with four black points on their licence if children under 10 are found in the front of a car. There have been campaigns urging motorists to buckle up in the front and back and secure young children in child car seats.

“It infuriates me to see someone with a child on their lap while driving. It not only puts the child in danger, but because children are so fidgety it endangers the life of others on the road,” said accident survivor Shagufta Usman who is still recovering from injuries sustained in a crash 16 years ago that killed two young family friends and severely wounded other relatives in the back seat who were travelling without seat belts.

“Even before the accident we never allowed children to sit in the front because I knew even in a minor accident if the airbag bursts, the child can suffocate and die. I don’t know if parents understand that a cranky child secure in the back is better than in front.

“This [photographs] is excellent. People should be educated that they have a right to protect the child.”

Others welcomed the discussion but said taking photographs was risky.

“It is creating another unsafe situation. It should start and stop with education on how to strap a child in correctly, then these measures would not be needed,” said Chantal Ariens, Blossom Nursery director who questioned how photos could be taken when most cars have blacked-out windows.

“If you see something happening on the highway, it’s not a good idea to take your phone out and take a snapshot ... At least it is a point of discussion.”

Victor Sigler, who has two children, said taking photographs could cause chaos.

“I’m alarmed seeing children on their parent’s lap and want to stop the car and warn them it is wrong. But even if a passenger in another car takes a photograph, the driver of that car could lose concentration. It is well meaning but will cause unnecessary distraction.”

rtalwar@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Nick Webster

Published: September 6, 2016 04:00 AM

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