The federal law number 3 of 2016 on child rights (also known as the ‘Wadeema law’ or ‘UAE child protection law’) was enacted in the UAE to ensure that all children in the UAE, irrespective of whether they are citizens, residents or tourists are accorded the right to life, education, protection from neglect as well as all forms of abuse whether physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or psychological. Pursuant to Article 3 of this Law, the rights of the children are protected without any discrimination as to the origin, sex, home country, religion, social status or disability of any child.
The Wadeema law essentially aims to protect the physical, mental and emotional psyche of a child against all forms of discrimination and abuse. It applies to all children up to the age of eighteen years and includes provisions that ensure their protection. For instance, an instance of child abuse with cause for imminent danger to the child can lead to the child being placed under protective services with childcare specialists. In other instances, which are less severe in nature can lead to the imposition of regular social service visits to enquire on the welfare of the child. The Federal Decree-Law number 31 of 2021 (the UAE penal code) also presumes the innocence of the child and thereby states that criminal cases cannot be filed against children who are less than eleven years old at the time of committing such crime.
Child negligence and the punishments imposed:
The UAE child defines ‘child negligence’ as ‘Failure of the parents or the custodian to take necessary actions to preserve the child’s life, as well as his/her physical, mental and moral integrity from risks and to protect his/her various rights’. Child negligence can be of different types; it can be physical, educational, medical or even emotional in nature.
Abandonment or improper care:
Under this law, it is prohibited to:
- Endanger the mental, psychological, physical or moral integrity of the child, whether through the abandonment of the child by his/her custodian or by leaving him/her at a care institution without due reason or rejection of the child by his/her custodian, or refraining from treating his/her illness and handling his/her affairs (Article 35). A fine of Aed 5000 is imposed as a penalty. However, if imposed by any other law, further severe penalties may also be imposed.
- Smoke in public and private transportation means and indoor places in the presence of a child (Article 21(2)). A fine of Aed 15,000/- is imposed as a penalty.
Pursuant to Article 37 of the Law, the following acts shall be prohibited:
- To use or exploit a child in the filming, recording or production of pornographic materials.
- To produce, publish, distribute or facilitate access of children to pornographic materials in any way.
- 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.
- To exploit the child sexually by exposing or preparing him/her for prostitution or debauchery, whether with or without pay, directly or indirectly.
- Imprisonment of up to 10 years may be imposed for the violation.
- Pursuant to Article 26 of the Wadeema Law, it is prohibited to publish, display, circulate, possess or produce any visual, audio or printed works or games for children that address the child’s sexual instincts or adorn the behaviors that are contrary to the public order and morals or that would encourage abnormal behavior. The punishment for violation is a penalty of a fine ranging from Aed 100,000 to Aed 400,000/-.
The UAE child protection laws have been enacted to ensure that appropriate living standards, right to health and educational rights are guaranteed to all children in the UAE without any discrimination. The Law protects children against all forms of negligence, exploitation, physical and psychological abuses, and it further imposes the onus on the community, especially physicians, educators, health care workers and other members of the society, to mandatorily report instances of child negligence. There exists a collective social responsibility on all to ensure child protection, and anyone witnessing acts of child abuse should report the same by reaching out to the Child protection center established under the Ministry of Interior (MOI) (hotline number 116111). The end goal is to ensure a collaborative approach in building a safer society, ensuring the well-being of children.