Interfere and take action to stop abuse and neglect, said Moza Al Shoomi, member of the Child Protection Association.
Being a nosy neighbour can save a child, UAE expert says
Despite cultural sensitivities, UAE citizens should not be afraid to interfere if they see child neglect or abuse, says an expert.
"I encourage society to interfere and take action,” said Moza Al Shoomi, member of the Child Protection Association.
"The root reasons behind child abuse are diverse, including financial problem, ignorance and lack of awareness,” she noted. "Most physical abuse cases are attributed to financial problems and life stress. Some parents (take) their anger out on their children," she said.
“We have to raise awareness among community members about the need to report any child abuse cases they get across or see. They share the responsibility if they don’t report about child abuse cases," Mrs Al Shoomi said.
She fears that many cases go unreported. "For instance, a wife who sees her husband beating up her children fears the consequences (of reporting this to authorities). However, the UAE's Child Protection Law, which came into force in June, 2016, provides protection to those who report child abuse cases," she said.
Since inception in 2007, the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children has dealt with 551 child victims of abuse and neglect.
Of the DFWAC cases, 56 per cent of these involve Emirati victims, while 44 per cent belong to various other nationalities. In terms of gender, 61 per cent of the victims are female, while 39 per cent are male.
In the first ten months of this year, the DFWAC has dealt with 60 child victims, compared to 62 last year. Of those cases, emotional abuse, negligence, and physical abuse were more common than sexual abuse. And some child victims experience more than one type of abuse, the foundation said.
Ghanima Al Bahri, director of care and rehabilitation at DFWAC, said: “In an ideal situation, the child stays in the shelter provided by the foundation for three to six months. However, in severe cases there are children who have stayed with us for up to five years.”
“We have dealt with Emirati children subjected to different forms of abuse. Child abuse is a global issue, regardless of their nationality or religion,” Ms Al Bahri noted. “(We’ve been) contacted by children, aged above 10-years-old, facing parental abuse and children with disabilities reporting that their parents are tough with them.”
Afra Al Basti, director-general of the DFWAC, said, depending on the severity of the case, the foundation could move swiftly to safeguard a child, in cooperation with the police.
“For instance, if a child called the foundation saying that he was beaten, burned or there is a threat to the child’s life, an agent from the foundation will go directly to the child’s location after coordinating with police,” she said.
“Based on the type of support the child needs, we create a team of legal advisors, psychologists and more to support the child for a period of time. The child will be supported for a period of time determined by the severity of the case. Then, we decide whether it’s safe to send the child to his family, other members of the family, or whether we will be looking for an alternative family,” Ms Al Bahri said.
The DFWAC hotline is: 800111.