x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Ministry calls for child abuse law to be expedited

The Ministry of Social Affairs called on the Ministry of Justice yesterday to push through the Child Rights Act.

ABU DHABI // The Ministry of Social Affairs called on the Ministry of Justice yesterday to push through the Child Rights Act. The Act, which would be the first comprehensive legal document devoted to children, was submitted to the MoJ in September and has been under review since. The MoJ is expected to submit a draft to the Federal National Council for review, after which it would require the President's signature before becoming law.

The director of the child department at the Ministry of Social affairs, Moza Alshoomi, said. "We urge the Ministry of Justice to expedite the process of submitting the draft law to the FNC. "As we have seen in the past weeks, this is a pressing matter and it deserves national attention." Talk of the draft law surfaced in the media following the case of a nine-year-old child who had been severely abused by her father and stepmother. The child, who is still recovering in hospital, was beaten to the point of being 80 per cent physically disabled.

On Tuesday her abusers had their prison sentences reduced from 10 to seven years by the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeal. The draft law would establish social workers who would focus on the well-being of children. "While this would be a federal law, the implementation would be up to each emirate," said Ms Alshoomi. "They know how to apply it best." The law would give social workers the power to remove children from homes where there was severe child abuse. "We have tried to keep the police out of this because sending police inside our homes is very foreign to our way of thinking.

"They would only be involved if there is a crime. The importance is that the social workers will examine every case on its own merit." Although ideas about child discipline vary from household to household, Ms Alshoomi insisted that "we are not talking about spanking or discipline, we are talking about abuse. That can be emotional as much as physical. That is why social workers will examine each case individually."

The law would create an offence of child abuse, with jail terms for those found guilty. People who witnessed child abuse and failed to report it would face a fine. The law would apply to all children, irrespective of race, religion or sex. Although the draft law could face criticism and change once it comes under the scrutiny of the FNC, Ms Alshoomi said she hoped the recent case of the abused child would ring in the hearts of FNC members.