Ever since the new Child Protection Law was implemented across the UAE, authorities have been witnessing more reports of child abuse cases.
Afra Al Basti, director-general of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC), said more schools have been reporting child abuse cases to the foundation.
As the UAE's Child Protection Law took effect in June 2016, reporting cases of child abuse or negligence has become mandatory for all members of the community, which pushed schools among other entities to report abuse cases.
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"The law has allowed for more awareness, which prompted schools to report abuse cases they see to avoid taking its responsibility or being pointed out for being oblivious about it," said Al Basti. She noted that reports of physical abuse often bring a history of verbal abuse not previously mentioned.
"Children aren't aware, so when their peers call them names, they think it's a normal or cultural thing until abuse takes a new form," said Al Basti.
She noted that the most common abuse cases the foundation receives is physical abuse among students at schools.
She said schools' representatives often request the foundation to conduct awareness campaigns and workshops to students of different academic stages to prevent cases from recurring. They request introducing training programmes for students, parents, teachers and social workers on ways to identify abuse, said Al Basti.
With more awareness plans and campaigns, parents are also approaching authorities to ask more questions. "Parents are becoming more aware. They're asking about ways to identify abuse in their children, which means we are starting to build knowledge among families and communities," said Al Basti, noting that it is a big shift in building trust between families and local organisations.
On the lack of official numbers of child abuse cases in the country, Al Basti said lack of official data is a worldwide problem. "Abuse is a sensitive topic that not everyone speaks about. If a mother is abusing her child, no one will report it, which is why data on child abuse isn't always accurate." She said unless a helpline is accessible to children, most abuse cases go unknown and that's why the foundation focuses on awareness.
"The law will prompt everyone to report abuse cases, which will make a big change," said Al Basti.
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