Wadeema Law lays down rights of children
12-page document is named in after Wadeema, an 8-year-old Emirati who was tortured to death by her father and another suspect in 2012
The UAE's new Child Protection Law No 3 - popularly known as the Wadeema Law - came into effect on Wednesday in line with the directives of Shaikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, who is also chairman of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department.
The 12-page document is named in memory of Wadeema, an eight-year-old Emirati girl who was brutally tortured to death by her father and another suspect in 2012. The law - which covers UAE nationals as well as children of expats - lays out the legal rights of minors in the UAE, and is designed to protect children from birth to puberty from a variety of forms of abuse, including physical, verbal and psychological abuse.
Among the main points enshrined in the law are the banning of child labour and the sale of tobacco to minors under the age of 18, protection in case of abandonment by parents or guardians, and protection from negligence. Additionally, it ensures rights to education, citizenship and access to health care services, and prohibits the use of children in any form of pornography.
Child Protection Centre
In Dubai, the Community Development Authority operates a Child Protection Centre in Al Barsha, which is on standby to assist residents under 18 years of age to ensure their rights are protected and upheld.
The Centre - which was first opened in 2014 - is tasked with rehabilitating, providing counselling, visiting and assisting children in need. The centre has a number of social workers and psychologists on hand to help children in need, and works together with various government and private sector entities to raise awareness of child abuse issues among family members, care givers, and medical professionals.
Furthermore, the law stipulates a range of punishments for abuses, with up to 10 years in prison mandated for certain abuses.
Speaking at a recent meeting of 24 government entities to prepare for the "law enforcement" stage of the law - which is now in effect - Moza Shoumi, a member of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, noted that the law will also protect disabled children who have been abandoned in hospitals by their parents, of which she said there are "many" cases, or children who are forced out of their home when they reach the age of 16.
Parents or step-parents will now be given three warnings to re-introduce the child back into the home, and if they fail, they will receive either a financial penalty or imprisonment, depending on the nature of the case.
"If the parent does not respond to the third warning, the case will become a criminal offence," she said.
She also noted that medical professionals will now be penalised if they fail to report any suspicions of physical abuse on children.
"All too often, physicians refrain from reporting injuries on children they deem suspicious, but this is now mandatory. If they do not report it, they will be punished," she said, adding that the new law "fills the gaps in current legislation in the UAE when it comes to the rights of children."
Across the country, residents can call the Ministry of Interior's Child Protection at 116-111, and can also contact the police at 999.
A study conducted by the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children in 2014 has found that 10 per cent of children in UAE schools are exposed to abuse or violence, mainly outside home. The study on 'Abuse against children in the UAE society' found that 7.2 per cent of male participants were exposed to abuse at home, compared to 5.7 per cent of females. Similarly, more male children suffer abuse at school (15.1 per cent) than female children (9.3 per cent).
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