Sad child
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Dubai: If you are a parent or guardian, or in any way have a child in your care, it is crucial that you take the responsibility seriously. Neglecting a child or subjecting him or her to any form of abuse is a crime, and the UAE’s laws have strict penalties in place for such actions.

Federal Law No. 3 of 2016 concerning child rights, also known as Wadeema's Law, is a detailed legislation, which ensures that children are protected in the UAE. The UAE Public Prosecution had recently raised awareness about the law and how failing to enrol a child in school in the UAE could land a parent or guardian in jail or face a fine of not less than Dh5,000.

Gulf News spoke with Ahmed Elnaggar, managing partner of Elnaggar and Partners, to find out what other lapses in child care can land a parent or guardian in jail.

Speaking about the Wadeema law, Elnaggar said: “Wadeema is the law the UAE legislators have drawn to protect children’s rights. A child, as defined in the law, is anyone below the age of 18 years. The law imposes a variety of penalties, including fines, imprisonment, or both, as well as the criminalisation of committing the act, failing to fulfil liabilities or negligence towards the children, whether by parents or any person who would be in position of responsibility and care of a child.”

He highlighted the various actions that are listed as criminal actions in the law and the penalties you can face for them

1. Jail or minimum fine of Dh5,000

The following set of actions can land a parent or guardian in jail, or facing a fine of not less than Dh5,000:

• Violating a child’s civil rights

Refraining from granting the child his or her civil rights by extracting identification papers and others, as stipulated in Clause 2 of Article 11 of the law. The clause read: “Each of the child's parents or whoever having legal authority thereon shall procure the issuance of the documents proving his birth, nationality, and all other relevant documents according to the laws in force at the State.”

• Endangering a child’s safety, neglect

Article 34 of the law is related to endangering the safety of the child, or refusing to treat or provide the relevant medical attention, as it stipulates in its terms that: “It shall be prohibited to endanger the mental, psychological, physical, or moral integrity of the child, whether through abandonment of the child by his or her custodian, leaving him or her at a care institution without due reason, rejecting the child by his or her custodian, or refraining from treating his or her illness and handling his or her affairs.”

Article 60 of the law stipulates the penalty for such action as imprisonment or a fine not less than Dh5,000

“Article 35 of the law is related to the abandonment of the moral duty towards the child, his care and guidance, and the right to education,” Elnaggar said.

The article states: “It shall be prohibited for the custodian to expose the child to rejection, homelessness, or neglect, leaving him or her without supervision or follow-up, refraining from his or her guidance, not handling his or her affairs, not enrolling him or her at an educational institution or leaving him or her without education during the compulsory education stage without due reason.”

Children are the future of any nation. Investing in them is the real investment. We all start investing in our children’s future life by investing in their education, saving money, and accumulating assets to make sure they have something to rely on when we are not around to protect them. However, we can be around, while they are exposed to danger or are illegally exploited in so many ways that money cannot be the solution for. For these reasons, such laws exist to protect the community. It is everyone’s responsibility to create a healthy society for our children and for their future.

- Ahmed Elnaggar, Managing Partner, Elnaggar & Partners

• Not reporting dangers or threats to a child’s safety

“Even seeing the crime happening, without reporting it to the relevant authority, can make the observer legally liable. Clause 2 of Article 42 is related to the failure of social workers, doctors, and educators to inform the competent authorities of a danger threatening a child,” Elnaggar said.

The article states: “The notification shall be mandatory for the educators, physicians, social specialists, or others entrusted with the protection, care, or education of the child.”

2. Minimum fine of Dh5,000, maximum Dh50,000

Article 61 of the law stipulates a fine of not less than Dh5,000 and up to Dh50,000 for any of the following cases:

• Not reporting suffering to the authorities, when the child says that they are suffering

“If a child told you that he or she is suffering it is not your job to judge the child. You must report it,” Elnaggar said. Article 43 of this law regulates the inaction of any person who refuses to help or assist a child who asks to notify the authorities of his or her suffering, the suffering of any of his or her siblings or any other child.

• Preventing a child protection specialist from carrying out his or her duties or hinders his or her work.

• Providing false information or deliberately hiding the truth concerning the status of the child.

3. Minimum fine of Dh5,000 for smoking around children

As per Articles 21 and 62 of the law, smoking in public and private transportation means and indoor places in the presence of a child is punishable with a fine of not less than Dh5,000.

Penalty for smoking around children
Article 21
It shall be prohibited to:
1- Sell or attempt to sell tobacco or tobacco products to children. The seller shall have the right to
ask the purchaser to provide evidence of reaching the age of eighteen.
2- Smoke in public and private transportation means and indoor places in the presence of a child.
3- Sell or attempt to sell alcoholic beverages to children and any other materials posing risk to the
health of the child, determined by a decision issued by the Council of Ministers.
4- Import or trade in materials that are contrary to the specifications approved in the State for the
nutrition, food supplies or health or hormonal supplements or children's toys.

Article 62
Whoever violates the provisions of Clause 2 of Article (21) hereof shall be punished by a fine not less than Dh5,000.

4. Jail for one to six months

There are various public places that have an age limit for entrants, and if children are prohibited from entering such places, anyone found violating such restrictions faces jail for at least a month and up to six months, with a minimum fine of Dh5,000, as per Articles 27 and 67 of the law.

5. Jail time, minimum fine of Dh20,000

• Child labour, forcing a child into begging

This punishment is applicable to anyone hiring a child below the age of 15 years old and in any works that may expose the child to risk whether due to the work nature or circumstances.

This penalty is also applicable on anyone exploiting children for begging or entrusting a child with an act that would hinder the child’s education or harm their physical, psychological, moral, or mental health or integrity. If the work poses a danger to life, this is considered an aggravating circumstance.

6. Jail time, minimum fine of Dh50,000

• Child cruelty

A punishment of imprisonment and a fine not less than Dh50,000 would be imposed on anyone who exposes a child to torture, violates the child’s physical integrity or commits any act involving cruelty that would affect the child's emotional, psychological, mental, or moral balance.

7. Minimum jail of 10 years

Article 37 of the law lays down in details all the actions that are prohibited in terms of exposing children to the dangers of child pornography. Clause 5 of the article includes the role of custodians in such acts: “The custodian’s contribution to the child's participation in the production or filming of child pornography or any other sexual acts, or his permission or assistance offered to the child in such acts.”