With over 200 nationalities, the UAE is a country diverse in culture and ethnicities. However, each of these cultures practice varying levels of discipline when it comes to engaging with and caring for children. In 2016 the UAE established Federal Law No 3, mandating a new set of Child Protection Laws to streamline the rights of all children who reside across the UAE.
According to the 2010 census, children comprise approximately 24% of the UAE population. However, the statistics on the types of abuse and how common childhood abuse is in the UAE are hard to come by, primarily due to the fact that most abuse is not reported.
While there are undeniable cases of abuse, there are far more grey areas when it comes to what is deemed as negligent behavior. According to Khalid Al Kamda, director-general of the Community Development Authority in Dubai, "It's essential to educate the public on what is acceptable and unacceptable parenting,", "Negligence can be typical things like having a child in the front seat or in the lap of a driver"
Furthermore, Al Kamada explains that the law is not designed to take children from their parents or guardians. The law simply establishes that parents and guardians are responsible for raising their children in a safe environment. At the end of the day, law enforcement agencies and child protection specialists believe the child's best environment is with their parents and their family.
Reporting Child Abuse
In most cases of abuse, the assailants are family members or people close to the family. As such, children are afraid and rarely report the crime. Under the new Child Protection Laws, professionals such as teachers, doctors, or childcare providers are obligated to report any suspected abuse. Under the law anyone who suspects abuse or neglect should report the to the authorities.
Breaking Down the UAE Child Protection Laws
- Hitting a Child: The law forbids parents or guardians from unreasonably disciplining a child. For example hitting a child in the face is prohibited. Physically disciplining a child that results in mark, bruises, or other injuries is not permitted. Discipline is meant to teach children about their behavior and to correct it, not to harm them.
- Leaving a Child Alone in the House: Leaving a child home alone is not permitted. Many childhood deaths are caused by parents and caregivers leaving their children alone at home. This includes sleeping children. Such actions are not safe and constitutes neglect under the Child Protection Laws.
- Children Sitting in the Front Seat: Under the law allowing a child to sit in the front seat or to move around a moving vehicle is considered negligent behavior, as it directly places them in danger. Children are legally mandated to remain in the back of the car and in their proper safety restraints while the vehicle is moving.
- Verbal Abuse: Abusive behavior goes beyond physical abuse. Calling children names affects them psychologically, causing long-term emotional damage. The Child Protection Law charges that the "dignity of the child must be protected". Parents, guardians, and caregivers should reprimand a child in a calm manner, and not go beyond what is asserted in Sharia.
Child Protection Laws ensures that every child has the right to live in a safe environment. Federal Law No 3 ascertains that all children have the basic rights to access education and health services. Furthermore, their parents or custodian are legally obligated to ensure their psychological, emotional, social, and cultural needs are met.
As always, we are happy to answer any of your questions or concerns regarding the UAE Child Protection Laws.
Additional Highlights of UAE Federal Law No 3
- Children have the right to be given citizenship, and to be registered under the name of their parents.
- Children can not work before the age of 15.
- Tobacco sales are prohibited to children under the age of 18 years old.
- It is illegal to sell alcohol or other dangerous substances to children.
- The law protects children from being abandoned or left without a guardian in the case of losing their parents.
- Children must have access to health care services.
- The law prohibits convicted sex offenders from working in any job that has them working directly with children.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.