x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

UAE nurseries' duty to report abuse considered for Wadeema's Law

Nurseries will be given new duties to protect children in their care under amendments to be considered by the Federal National Council.

ABU DHABI // Nurseries will be given new duties to protect children in their care under amendments to be considered by the Federal National Council.

The amendment will be proposed by the FNC committee reviewing Wadeema's Law, the new child protection law named after an eight-year-old Emirati girl who was starved and tortured to death by her father and his girlfriend.

Neither the law governing nurseries, nor the initial draft of Wadeema's Law, made specific provision to give the country's 300 licensed nurseries and their staff responsibility for preventing and reporting abuse.

"We wanted to include [nurseries] in the law so that they do not think later they are out of it," said Sultan Al Sammahi (Fujairah), one of the seven members of the Health, Labour, and Social Affairs committee, which is currently studying Wadeema's Law.

Their proposed amendment, Mr Al Sammahi noted, is the most significant they have so far proposed to the law.

After two weeks of discussions, the committee, with the help of legal advisers, has reviewed 45 of the law's 72 articles.

"We just made clarifications and added to the definitions, we introduced new ones to strengthen it," said Mr Al Sammahi. "So the law is clear to society."

He expects the remaining clauses to take a further week, after which members will meet child protection agencies and finally with Ministry of Social Affairs officials to ensure they are on board with the changes.

After that the bill will be debated by the full FNC in the presence of the Minister, Mariam Al Roumi.

The law, which Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, ordered to be expedited last year following Wadeema's death, is intended to protect children from all kinds of abuse and neglect.

It will introducing child protection specialists with the power to take children from their homes if they have been harmed or are in imminent danger.

Sheikha Al Erri (UAQ) said the articles giving these specialists the power to intervene when needed would not go against societal norms nor would it interfere with peoples' lives.

"The bill does not clash with sharia, social norms, or international agreements," she said. "Plus, international agreements do not govern us, what governs us is our constitution."

She said the specialists would work mostly with adoptive families. "We must ensure they are good with the children," she said.

Salem Al Ameri (Abu Dhabi), chairman of committee, said the law will be ready to go to the full FNC before its four-month recess starts in mid-June.

osalem@thenational.ae