Sharjah: The Sharjah Child Protection Department has filed two 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 two cases after investigations carried out by the department’s social workers was approved regarding two parents who had intentionally failed to issue official documents to their children since their birth till they reached school-going age.

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 is popularly known as Wudeema Law. The 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.

In one incident, social workers found a complaint from a pupil saying that her teacher bites her hands. The pupil did not mention the name of the teacher nor the grade in which she was enrolled. Nevertheless, the department decided on a course of action which would get them the results. The matter was taken up with the school’s principal and the school’s social worker devised a strategy: she spoke to the students about the importance of personal hygiene and asked them to show her their hands and nails for inspection. This way, she was able to detect the pupil whose hands were bitten by the teacher without making her mission obvious.

Though this incident occurred before the Wudeema Law came into effect, the principal promised to tackle the issue and spoke to the teacher concerned.

Child custody cases come under Wudeema Law

The Sharjah Sharia Court has called on its judges presiding over child custody cases to take the Wudeema Law into account.

Judges were asked to submit a detailed report of the social, psychological and criminal status of the person demanding custody of the child — or alternatively, of the one who will be granted custody.

The resolution was issued by Judge Salem Al Hosni, Head of Sharjah Sharia Court, pursuant to Article 39 of the UAE’s Child Protection Law No 3, which states that the child’s physical and mental interests are the only criteria that matter while deciding a child custody case.

Al Tartoor said that taking the above factors into account before granting child custody will play a vital role in protecting child rights.

The presence of psychological and social experts at the court sessions and hearings, are now mandatory, so that they can observe all the circumstances of the case and assist the judge in taking the final decision.

Social workers, Al Tartoor said, will have the right and power of attorney to enter a house where a child is believed to be abused. If the department receives information about a child being abused by his parents or any other person, after verifying the accuracy of the information, the social worker can visit the house and take the child to a safe place.

Social workers, he added, take permission from the minister of justice to carry out their responsibilities.

Children at the 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 mother claimed that her ex-husband molested her daughter in order to prevent him from seeing his daughter.

In another incident, a seven-year-old girl shouted, “I [have] started hating Fridays,” because of the quarrels between her parents whenever they met up at the Social Services Department and promptly started blaming one another.

The department has handled more than 200 divorce cases since 2010.