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Is there a right time for protecting children?

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Fatima Sultan

Senior Resident Fellow- Public Policy

Tag: Middle East Government Policy Dubai Policy Analysis Public Opinion Public Policy UAE United Arab Emirates
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The UAE’s Child Rights law will soon come into effect after years of discussion. Reactions to it unsurprisingly included speculations about law applications, which is helpful for decision makers to understand the view of the public and to highlight aspects that need further clarification. 


It was encouraging to see that the majority of writers agreed that the protection of children is the responsibility of the entire community.  . Focusing on the preparation phase ahead of the implementation through educating the community and  training those dealing with children to discover cases of abuse and sensitively treat them in order to ensure effectiveness of application, the writers also expressed fears that application of the law may trigger wide negative consequences within the community.



In particular, it seemed that powers granted to social workers, which enable them, notwithstanding court order, enter the child's home and even distance the child from its family raised some concerns. Opinion writers are concerned that the Emirati community may not accept such procedures as some families still tend to be very conservative. Apart from application, these community concerns for this long-awaited law seem strange. Whether the law takes into consideration such concerns or not, is family privacy and reputation still viewed as most important than protecting children?



When discussing community acceptance, we need to remember that discussing this law starts following Wadima case, who has been tortured to death by her father and his girlfriend. This case has triggered wide  public condemnation, as it revealed the cruelty against children in the absence of community role in maintaining children’s rights.



 This case has drawn attention to the children category who are most vulnerable and to families that need society support and intervention. The issue ignited interest in this law bill that would not have attracted such interest. At the time, the public, called for child protection as soon as possible, so another child will not be lost in the same way. Would the community retreat when it such law touches its privacy?



Unfortunately, another shocking crime has shaken the community. The murder of Obaida who was kidnapped from Sharjah and found few days later strangled in Dubai following his abuse. The criminal has criminal record and living illegally in the country. This case has provoked strong outcry and many called for screening criminal record of anyone entering the country. Again, public opinion focus was on the legal loopholes that enabled such criminal to reside in the State. Another  aspect emerged. Children should be made aware of the risks and should be psychologically prepare to defend themselves. Calls for raising awareness of different segments of society could lead in the future to better understanding of the objective of this law and the implications of its articles.



Public opinion has always reacted with children safety issues, such as the case of Naziha who was forgotten inside the bus after she fell asleep. The Bus attendant and the Driver did not notice her. Her disappearance was not noticed until the fifth class. Also stories of children abuse at the hands of their maids, have highlighted some families negligence. Frequent   incidents of children fall from balconies, which brought up to light the need to change construction rules and to consider children safety as priority. the necessity to focus on the mistakes and lapses that could have been avoided if there were rules and regulations to govern all these children-related incidents is evident. Priority should be given to children safety and their protection.


We can’t say that social workers tasks would not be without difficulties or that everyone in the community would accept to discuss with strangers their relation with their children, let alone distancing children from parents. But hesitation and waiting would miss community the chances that appear while facing such obstacles in order to evaluate the mechanisms of law application, development to fit society and achieving the goals more effectively.



Finally, indications show that the society is much more prepared now to abandon the sanctity of privacy in exchange for children safety. This can be noticed in the public outcries when children safety is violated. Thus, public privacy concerns may not be fully justified. Therefore, as the gap between public opinion and public policy is getting smaller and smaller, children safety becomes the priority of all parties. Now is the appropriate time to apply the Child Rights law that will be accepted by all UAE society.

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