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Abused children mainly victims of their father: Dubai centre


DUBAI // The large majority of the 30 child abuse victims who received protection from a Dubai foundation the first six months of this year were subjected to violence by their father.

Twenty-five children below the age of 18 were abused by their father, while three suffered violence from their mother and one each by a brother and sister, according to figures for the first half of 2016 released by the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children.

In some cases, the victims were exposed to violence by more than one person, said Afra Al Basti, director general of the DFWAC.

Twenty women were taken in by the DFWAC, with 16 sheltered by the centre. The remaining received care and rehabilitation but did not require housing.

The foundation aims to reach victims who do not report abuse.

Many children remain silent about their exposure to violence because of fear of their abuser or believing it is normal when the source is the father or mother, Ms Al Basti said.

Relatives reported eight cases of child abuse to the DFWAC while six children called the foundation’s 800 111 helpline to ask for help for themselves.

Five victims were referred by police, four were received from courts, three from schools, two from embassies and one case each by public prosecution and neighbours.

Of the 30 child abuse cases received so far this year, 12 were Emiratis, 12 were of other known nationalities with six of unknown nationalities.

Apart from physical violence, some of the children were also neglected, subjected to verbal abuse, forced to watch violence, and underwent financial abuse, while two children were sexually abused.

“It is paramount always to maintain the safety of children,” said Dr Yaseen Aslam, a psychiatrist at Lighthouse Arabia, a community mental health clinic that provides psychological and psychiatric care to children, adults and families.

“We must create a strong system so children can freely divulge information when they feel they are being abused or threatened.

“It’s important for teachers and professionals working with children to be vigilant and aware of warning signs that indicate physiological or physical harm so they can support the children and notify authorities.”

The new child protection law, or Wadeema’s Law, will contribute significantly to the reduction of child abuse levels in the country, Ms Al Basti said.

Child abuse levels in the UAE are among the lowest in the world, she said.

The law, established in memory of an eight-year-old Emirati girl tortured to death by her father and his girlfriend, took effect on June 15 and aims to protect young people up to the age of 18 from abuse and neglect.

People in contact with a child for the first time can be held accountable and are legally obliged to report cases of suspected abuse.

Across the world, violence against children not only inflicts harm, pain and humiliation, it also kills, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence, according to Unicef statistics.

At the DFWAC, the number of victims of child abuse received in the first six months of this year decreased by about 33 per cent compared to the same period last year, with 45 cases in 2015.

Every victim is dealt with differently with a support plan designed according to each child’s needs, said Ms Al Basti, adding that this is evaluated periodically. The plan includes social, legal, health, housing and psychological support.

A case manager prepares a transition plan for the child to integrate into society ensuring their safety, with their progress monitored for six months after they leave the shelter.

Established in 2007, the DFWAC provides shelter to women and child victims of domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking.

rtalwar@thenational.ae