Some 35 per cent of the cases involved child negligence
Fifty cases of child abuse reported to Dubai Police since January
Fifty cases of child abuse were reported to the Women and Children Protection Department at Dubai Police during the first nine months of the year.
Of those cases, 35 per cent involved negligence and 25 per cent involved physical abuse, police said. Reports of sexual violence were less prevalent.
Anyone in breach of the UAE Child Protection Law, which came into effect in June, faces a fine of up to Dh50,000 and up to 10 years' jail for physical or sexual abuse or the criminal negligence of children.
On Sunday, Lt Col Saeed Alheli, director of the Women and Children Protection Department at Dubai Police, said an example of child negligence is leaving children in parked cars.
“Leaving children unattended in cars may end their lives. Similar incidents are described as complete tragedies that could be prevented,” he said.
He said one of the cases reported to the department involved two children, under the age of nine, who had apparently been left in a car by their father while he went to dinner at a restaurant nearby.
“A man walking by the car spotted the two children and called police. When the children’s father, of Asian origin, was questioned about leaving his children in the vehicle, he told police officers that he didn’t intend to neglect his children,” aid Lt Col Alheli.
The man told police his children had been sleeping in the car and he didn’t wish to wake them, and so left his car engine switched on with them inside. He was made to sign an acknowledgment of a written warning.
In September, Dubai Police issued fresh warnings to parents and guardians about leaving children alone vehicles after rescuing two children from parked cars, two days in a row.
The issue is country-wide, with a girl in Abu Dhabi suffocating after being forgotten in a parked car for six hours the same month.
Similarly, two Emirati sisters, aged four and two, were found to have suffocated in their father’s car after becoming trapped inside the vehicle for two hours in mid-afternoon heat in Ajman in June.
Lt Col Alheli said the introduction of the Child Protection Law and the awareness campaign from Dubai Police have made children and the public more aware of the different ways to report abuse.
In one of the cases reported this year, a 17-year-old girl messaged police through Instagram to report her parents for physically assaulting her and stopping her from going to school.
“The teenaged girl was taken to a hospital by her mother after taking a quantity of pills. The mother yelled at her daughter and injured her feelings using very tough words,” Lt Col Al Heli said.
“We immediately set up a task force to reach the girl’s family to save her and solve her problem.”
Police managed to track down the girl, who had not provided them a telephone number through which to contact her, and asked her parents to approach the human rights department at Dubai police.
“We found out that the father works in Abu Dhabi and he is not available at home throughout the week, while the 45-year-old mother, who is also an employee, is handling the household in a very tough and cruel manner.”
Police made the mother sign a note of acknowledgment, promise not to abuse her daughter and send her to school as education is a fundamental right for each child, he said.
Lt Col Alheli said parents are made to sign acknowledgments of written warnings when cases are not considered severe.
"Some cases are solved by asking the parent to sign a written warning and we keep an eye on the child," he said.
He attributed family breakdowns as the main cause of child negligence.
“Sometimes, parents experience divorce and their children pay the price,” said Lt Col Alheli, who called on institutions, including schools and nurseries, to work together to protect children.
“We have launched a campaign among government schools in Dubai to raise their awareness about the importance of reporting child abuse cases.”
The campaign will move on to private schools next month.
“Some schools don’t prefer to interfere in students’ private lives, but in this case they are obligated by the law,” said Lt Col Alheli.