x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Wadeema's Law for UAE to go before Federal National Council this week

The new child protection law, known as Wadeema's law after the girl who was starved and tortured to death by her father and his girlfriend, will be studied by members of the Federal National Council starting this week.

ABU DHABI // The new child protection law, known as Wadeema’s law after the case, will be studied by members of the FNC this week.

The law, aimed at protecting children from abuse and neglect, was approved by the Cabinet last November and later referred to the FNC and its health, labour and social affairs committee.

Sultan Al Sammahi, secretary of the committee, said they would start studying the law.

They will then hold six further closed meetings before referring it to the council for discussion in the presence of the Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Al Roumi. Ms Al Roumi will also attend at least one of the committee meetings.

“While studying the law we plan on visiting local and federal entities with an interest in child protection, such as the Ministry of Interior and the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children,” Mr Al Sammahi said.

The committee will meet at least once a week. However, Mr Al Sammahi said the discussions may take longer than planned.

“We want to try to finish the law by June” he said. “But I am against rushing it because it is a sensitive issue. We need to give the law its time, make sure it goes by our social life and Islamic values.”

The 72-article bill will give new child-protection specialists the power to remove children from their homes if they are believed to be in imminent danger.

Ms Al Roumi told Al Ittihad, The National’s Arabic-language sister paper, that anyone who tortures a child, puts their life in danger or causes them any ill-treatment would be fined Dh400,000.

Sexual abuse and exploitation, and abusing a child for pornography will carry jail sentences of no less than 10 years. After release, offenders will not be allowed within five kilometres of the child they abused, and will be barred from working with children.

In all cases, offenders will only be released after psychological tests to ensure they are no further threat to society. Doctors, social workers, child carers and others who deal with children who fail to report suspected child abuse cases will face jail and fines.

Adults approached by an abused child will have a duty to alert authorities. Failure to do so will see fines of Dh5,000 to Dh50,000.

The law will apply to all children up to the age of 18.

“It will be a huge debate because there are religious aspects, social-traditional aspects, human aspects,” said Dr Mona Al Bahar, assistant director for care and rehabilitation at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children and an FNC member. “I think there will be big arguments about this law.”

osalem@thenational.ae