x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Emirati women against laws on breastfeeding, online survey finds

Emirati women are against proposals that would make breastfeeding mandatory and allow officials to remove abused youngsters from their family as part of a children’s rights law, an online survey has found.

Alyazia Al Duhaim, an Emirati student whose survey on women’s responses to the draft child-rights law will form part of her research paper for her master’s degree in London. Satish Kumar / The National
Alyazia Al Duhaim, an Emirati student whose survey on women’s responses to the draft child-rights law will form part of her research paper for her master’s degree in London. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI// Emirati women are against plans to make breastfeeding mandatory and allow officials to remove abused youngsters from families – moves proposed as part of a draft children’s rights law – an online survey has suggested.

Alyazia Al Duhaim, 22, a master’s student in public policy, said that more than half of the 115 respondents to her questionnaire, prepared as part of her research paper, were unhappy about state intervention in private matters.

“Many people supported child rights in general,” said Ms Al Duhaim, a student at University College London. “But they aren’t very happy with the breastfeeding clause and are concerned about the plan for child specialists.

“Emiratis care a lot about their families and believe another external actor, or the state, has no right to interfere in their family affairs.”

The 72-article draft legislation was originally named after Wadeema, an eight-year-old Emirati girl who was tortured and beaten to death by her father and his girlfriend last year.

The law aims to guarantee specific rights for youngsters and limit violence against children, while enforcing strict penalties, protecting the child from society and from parents’ negligence, and ensuring their right to an education.

It also looks at the creation of child-protection units that would have the legal backing to remove children from their homes if they were considered to be in imminent danger, and to intervene with regular visits in less severe cases.

Ms Al Duhaim said she shared the survey respondents’ concerns.

“I am definitely for a child’s right against violence and abuse. The state has to intervene in certain situations, but they should know where to draw the line. Child specialists can go in without passing the courts,” she said.

“Preventing abuse is important but, at the same time, respondents believe there should be a way to respect people’s privacy.

“Similarly, the breastfeeding law doesn’t make sense. The Federal National Council debate is mostly from a male perspective. There are many women who can’t breastfeed. It should be optional.

“Also, there is the issue of whether men can sue their wives over their inability to breastfeed. I don’t understand why it is in the draft. I feel like it won’t be passed.”

The survey was intended for Emiratis and expatriates. Its purpose was to assess their knowledge of the draft law and child rights in the UAE, their opinions on a child’s right to be breastfed and views on external specialists intervening in cases where a child was believed to be being abused by the family.

The survey also asks if the new law would undermine the authority of parents and stakeholders.

The Emirati student said she decided to use the draft law as the topic of her research paper because of the sweeping changes it proposed, and the reactions it had evoked from FNC ministers, lawyers, breastfeeding groups and women in the UAE, who could potentially be prosecuted if they did not breastfeed.

The survey went online a month ago. Ms Al Duhaim was hopeful more people would take part in it.

“Although I have to collate the results and hand in my paper by September, I might keep the survey open for personal reasons.”

The survey can be found at qtrial2014.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_40y9aiFOm1HgMAJ

pkannan@thenational.ae