DUBAI // Raising suspicions about child abuse should be the responsibility of all adults, not just teachers, said government advisers.
Free community workshops and seminars on child protection were held in Dubai on Monday by Austability, an Australian company that helps communities to safeguard children. It has been advising police at the Child Protection Centre of the Ministry of Interior in Abu Dhabi for months.
Failure to flag potential signs of abuse could be punishable by law, said Shona Spence, a Scottish lawyer working with Austability on raising awareness about child exploitation across the UAE.
She said child protection covered a range of areas but the prevention of child abuse and the response to such incidents were important. “It is a work in progress in the UAE, and we are very much at the start of that journey,” Ms Spence said.
Reporting child abuse is now mandatory under the federal penal code 2.47. “It is now a requirement for teachers and any adult who comes across a case where there is suspicion that a crime has taken place against that child for it to be reported by law,” she said.
Enacting the UAE Child Rights Law, which the Federal National Council approved in 2014 with amendments passed late last year, as well as a wider understanding of how to recognise signs of child abuse are key to protecting children. Hundreds of nursery staff have been trained across the country to detect child abuse.
It is critical that suspicions of abuse or neglect of children are reported early, said Rachael Freedman, a Welsh social worker who has worked at a Dubai nursery since August.
“We have seen what can happen if it is ignored. That is not just within educational settings, but across all sections of society,” she said.
“During the workshop, we tried to explain to parents that they should consider the adults their children may come into contact with. Parents need to be asking their children who they feel comfortable going to if there is a problem.
“Children are resilient, but they don’t always know what to do in these situations.”
Children can be physically or mentally abused as well as neglected. Trafficking and forced labour are other areas of concern.
The latest figures from Unicef, the United Nations’ child protection body, show that about 6 million children are trafficked globally, with about 75 per cent of them for forced labour.
Experts have encouraged a community response to reporting signs of child abuse, neglect or trafficking.
Warning signs could be obvious changes in behaviour, such as withdrawing from play or socialising, fear of returning to the family home, developmental delays or animal cruelty.
Participants in the seminars discussed cases in Britain where social services, schools and family members failed to intervene or report child abuse, leading to the deaths of children.
“In the coming months there will be legislation in the UAE that will be signed off to allow child protection officers to intervene and investigate claims of child abuse,” said Barry Randall, who was a police sergeant in Melbourne for 22 years.
He now works with Abu Dhabi Police to share his experiences of investigating child abuse and training officers in best practices.
“The Child Protection Centre in Abu Dhabi will be the centre for reporting child abuse, where it can be investigated fully.
At first there was a lack of understanding by police towards these type of crimes in the UAE, but that is changing,” he said.
Source: uae news