x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

‘Wadeema’s law is for all children in the UAE’

Wadeema's Law, comprehensive child protection legislation, aims to protect all children until they turn 18.

ABU DHABI // Eight-year-old Wadeema was tortured and murdered, her body abandoned in the desert.

But her death sparked legislation in her name that aims to protect other children from suffering the same fate.

Approval of Wadeema’s Law, the sweeping child protection legislation, will limit violence against children by enforcing strict penalties, lawyers and Federal National Council members said yesterday after Wadeema’s killers finally exhausted the appeal process against their life sentence.

“It was named Wadeema but we like to stress that it is a child law when we refer to it,” said Fujairah’s FNC member Sultan Al Samahi. “The law protects any person until they are 18.”

The law has already been passed through the Cabinet and was passed on to the FNC. The council will discuss it with the Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Al Roumi, soon after the new term starts.

Once its approved by the FNC it will be passed to the President, Sheikh Khalifa, for final approval.

Mr Al Samahi explained that the law was designed to be as comprehensive as possible and addresses issues including criminal offences, traffic safety and smoking.

FNC members studying the law focused on children’s issues in education, transport, health, food and protecting children from cyber crimes.

“For example, in the traffic law if a child was placed in the front seat the penalty was only a fine, but in the new law, there will be possible jail time or a major fine.”

Safety of children in school was also a major focus, particularly on school buses.

Umm Al Quwain’s veteran FNC member, Ali Jassem, had specific concerns about children in buses or taxis.

“We should not look at school bus drivers, or those who transfer children in general, as they are just drivers doing their jobs.”

While he had not seen the law, Mr Jassem said it included stringent penalties to limit violence against children.

“Before there was no law for children, we used to talk about child development in general. It is very important to have a comprehensive law to protect the child, an innocent creature.”

He said one of the most important issues that should be covered was recruiting children in jobs, as “it is a crime against the child”.

Other elements of the law include protecting the child from society and from parents’ negligence, and having the right to education.

“There were many violations against children’s rights and a lot of injustice done to them, and part of it was from the parents as a result of the changing society.”

He stressed that the law should impose severe punishments on any party who harmed the child’s welfare whether directly or indirectly.

Dubai-based lawyers stressed that the UAE penal code does not protect abusive parents from a death penalty if they ended up killing the child.

Advocate Yousif Al Bahar said that there was no legal text that stated a parent was not to be punished with death for murdering his own child.

“There is no such text in law, it is in Sharia but it’s not in law,” said the Emirati lawyer.

He called Wadeema’s Law “extremely important”.

“I hope if other laws were reviewed and amended in the benefit of the child, amended in a way that goes along with the tremendous changes in the society and its behaviours. I hope for addition of other laws that also serve what’s best for the child.”

Mr Al Bahar said he hoped for a law that set up authorities to oversee “the conditions, behaviours and morals” of those given custody of the child.

Emirati lawyer Eman Al Rifaee confirmed that there was not a text in the penal code stating a parent was not to be executed for the killing of his own offspring.

“If our law was entirely derived from Sharia we would have been cutting the hand of the thief then. Sharia is one source of the law but not its only source,” she said.

Ms Al Rifaee said the father was given the harshest sentence.

“It’s a daily execution,” she said. “It was his daughter he caused the death of, not some stranger. He will die every day just remembering the matter, one bullet would end a man’s misery, but a life behind bars is killing him over and over with every day that comes.”

Ms Al Rifaee called for a fast approval and enforcement of Wadeema’s Law and suggested an article that incriminated parents if their juvenile child was involved in a crime.

“They have to face charges and face the law because the child’s crime is the outcome of their method of raising him. Nowadays parents have forgotten how to raise a child. It’s the technology that is doing the job for them since the child is taking example in every character or fashion he sees online.”