Sharjah: The Sharjah Child Protection Department has filed four cases of child negligence with the public prosecution since the Wudeema law came into effect on June 15.
Ahmad Ebrahim Al Tartoor, Director of Protection of Children’s Rights Administration at Sharjah Social Services Department, told Gulf News that the department filed four cases after investigations carried out by the department’s social workers established prima facie that four parents had intentionally neglected their children. Two of them had failed to get official documents for their children issued till they reached school-going age.
The third case is against a man who ignored his special needs child and did not provide him with necessary care, while the fourth case is against an Arab couple who abandoned their 12-year-old boy when they divorced. The boy, a grade 8 student at a public school in Sharjah, has been left emotionally devastated. He’s now under the care of the Child Protection Department. The father approached the department and left the boy there after he divorced his second wife [mother of the boy]. He claimed his first wife refused to accept the child.
The boy’s mother also refused to keep the boy as her new spouse would not agree to foster his stepson. The mother told the department that she handed the boy to his father, who failed to take responsibility for their son as well.
A child’s attachment to his mother is stronger than his attachment to his father and being abandoned by the mother can have a profoundly disturbing impact on the child’s emotions and lead to low-self-esteem, said Al Tartoor.
When the boy’s mother came to visit him at the department, he cried and begged her to take him with her, said Al Tartoor. He even told his mother that he would clean her house and not mind if his stepfather beat him.
It was a difficult situation to all who witnessed the emotional distress of the boy, said Al Tartoor, except for his parents who remained unmoved by his plight.
The traumatised boy said he is ashamed of his situation as his classmates know that he has been rejected by his parents and “dumped” at the Child Protection Department for no reason.
Social workers in the department are working with the boy, trying their utmost to ease his pain, said Al Tartoor.
This has been one of most distressing cases the department has handled, said Al Tartoor.
The department is conducting awareness campaigns in schools and institutions in the emirate to make community members familiar with the Wudeema law. The UAE’s new Child Protection Law No 3, popularly known as Wudeema law, makes it obligatory for all members of society to report to authorities any case of abuse of children’s rights.
Residents and schools are mandated to inform the authorities about any cases of mistreatment, or sexual or physical abuse of children by parents or by any other individual, said Al Tartoor.
In addition to the campaign, the department has, since 2007, placed around 120 boxes across Sharjah’s schools to receive students’ complaints. Every fortnight, the complaints are collected for review and action.
Children at cross-roads
When it comes to child custody cases, Al Tartoor said the child is always deemed the aggrieved party since he or she may be caught in the middle of their parents’ dispute.
Sometimes, children are pushed into developing bad habits such as lying, and other undesirable behaviours, as parents force them into taking sides.
In one incident, a British mother claimed that her ex-husband molested her son and she asked the department to protect her son from his father and she was moving an injunction against her ex-husband from seeing his son.
Some cases handled by the department
An Arab man lodged a complaint with the Sharjah Police against the Child Protection Department because they refused to tell him who had informed them that the boys’ parents used to beat him. The family’s neighbour reported to the department that the family who had two children [aged 5 and 3] were badly treated by their mother and she used to shout and beat them.
The department summoned the couple and interrogated them. Investigations revealed that the mother’s idea of raising her children was to shout and beat them to make them behave.
The department made the parents sign a pledge to not repeat this action again with their children.
This forced the father to visit the department to inquire about who had reported the matter to them.
When the department refused to disclose the name of the person, he decided to lodge a complaint with police.
The case is still under investigations
An Arab man reported to the department that there was a child who had been tortured by his parent in the next-door apartment.
A team from the department visited the apartment to verify the truth of the matter and found only the father present. Investigations revealed that the boy, aged 4, was hyperactive and made too much noise in the apartment which made the neighbour believe that he was being tortured by his parents.
The Sharjah Social Services Department received 3,504 call in 2016, of which 484 were actual reports, 968 complaints regarding child abuse, 45 sexual molestation cases and the rest about financial and legal issues.
This year, up to January 22, the department received 188 calls, of which 30 were actual cases [of child neglect]. The department has handled more than 200 divorce cases since 2010.