x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Wadeema's Law on UAE child protection faces FNC summer delay

UAE's child protection law faces a delay because the Social Affairs Minister postponed her appearance before the Federal National Council.

ABU DHABI // The federal child-protection law faces a delay because the Minister for Social Affairs will be unable to appear at the FNC's final session before the summer break, according to members.

Wadeema's Law, named after an eight-year-old girl who was tortured to death by her father, was scheduled for public debate by the FNC next Tuesday.

But the minister, Mariam Al Roumi, told the council on Wednesday she would not be able to attend because she would be out of the country, so the session was cancelled.

The final meeting will now be on June 25, but members said the minister would still be unable to attend.

Sultan Al Sammahi (Fujairah), deputy head of the FNC's health committee, said this meant the law would be delayed until autumn when members returned from their four-month break. "We did our part," Mr Al Sammahi said. "We studied the law and put forward our proposed amendments.

"The final report has been passed to the council awaiting for the minister to attend and for the debate."

The committee spent almost two months studying the 72-article bill, he said, and had been keen to finalise it before the term ended.

"We wanted to finish it quickly because this law is sensitive," Mr Al Sammahi said. "Therefore we should not delay it or allow other hands to attempt to play in it. When it is discussed is not relevant to us now."

He said the changes the committee had come up with, after consulting various groups that work with children, focused mainly on defining the law.

The committee also referred to the General Islamic Authority over the custody of abused children and adoption to ensure the law was Sharia-compliant.

"The law as it came from the Government was hardly changed to ensure Sharia compliancy," Mr Al Sammahi said. "It was already good. Only minor changes were made in this regard."

The only significant changes proposed were to ban those under 18 from smoking or being in any public space where there was smoking.

Children under 18 will also be banned from driving quad bikes.

"Although this was the case before, now it will be completely illegal," Mr Al Sammahi said.

Businesses that rent the vehicles to minors face closure and fines.

A member who wished not to be named said the delay was "affecting the country".

Once the bill is passed by the FNC after debate, it goes to the President, Sheikh Khalifa, for approval.

osalem@thenational.ae