x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Call for one law to safeguard children

Officials are calling for a unified law regarding children, ranging from abuse to delinquency.

DUBAI // The country needs a unified child protection law, a top police official said yesterday.

Dr Mohammed Murad, Director of the Dubai Police Decision Making Support Centre (DMSC), called for legislation covering sexual abuse, access to edged weapons, physical abuse and punishment, parenting, special needs and juvenile delinquency. Those areas are currently covered by different sections of the UAE legal code.

"We need to identify cases of children's rights abuses, and to study it and take action; we also need to criminalise 'cold weapon' acquisition by youth and eliminate youth violence," Dr Murad said. "Problems have to be addressed such as the decrease in the age of drug abusers, internet and cyber crimes against children, the use of knives and swords amongst children, sexual harassment and paedophilia, and the greatly reduced role of family heads in society.

"There is a need for a uniform child protection law, the periodic review of legislation for children, and the co-ordination of efforts provided by official agencies and NGOs."

Dr Murad's remarks came in the presentation of a study yesterday to the Community and Development Authority outlining what kinds of threats a new law should address.

The study comes in the midst of a formal review, begun in 2008, of federal laws that protect children.

The DMSC was established in May 2001 and works with the Dubai Police command centre, studying criminal and security issues.

Other mechanisms to protect children have been put forward by different government bodies.  A subcommittee of the child protection high committee under the Ministry of Interior last year looked at banning people convicted of serious sex crimes in their home countries as a means of preventing any person with a record of child abuse from entering the UAE.

“We have several methods to use in order to monitor individuals applying for a visa to enter the country. One method would be to use the Green Notice provided by Interpol; another method would be to collaborate with other countries in order to gain the information,” a Ministry of Interior official said.

Dr Murad noted the need for more funding for field studies of child-related crime and said an annual meeting should be held among all public and private bodies on the rights of children. Additionally, he proposed founding a specialised centre to combat child exploitation, especially sexual exploitation of children.

He said issues of school violence, criminal youth gangs and child labour could be tackled by nurturing gifted youth, expanding the security education programme and nurturing children with special needs.

“We have to address issues related to juveniles, and children of unknown parents, as well as children exposed to abuse and neglect, establishing the causes of these issues and determine priorities,” he said.

Experts have called for a unified set of child protection laws, saying that the absence of a clear definition of a child’s rights has hampered efforts.

“The issue of government intervention into private, family affairs is a big challenge in putting forward the child-protection agenda,” said Anita Akkawif of the Dubai School of Government. “In the UAE, what happens in the house remains in the house.”

That has made it difficult for authorities gauge the size of the problem, she said.