Kuwait project to protect children from mistreatment – Call for new strict rules
More and more children are being subjected to violence and aggression by their parents or relatives but due to traditional taboos, most such cases are not even registered.

However, when the registered number cases involving children neglected and injured due to violence reached 120, the Ministry of Health sat up and took note. It decided to start a project to protect the children from negligence and mistreatment besides focussing on this tragic aspect.

According to a report published in a local newspaper, this project or plan includes establishing an observatory for statistics and collecting data concerning all cases of violence against children.

The article also mentioned that a decree was issued in 2009 to form a committee including specialist doctors from hospitals to transfer the child victims from the primary care centers to the hospitals, but the move faced many obstacles and could not be implemented. Psychiatric Khalid Al-Muhanadi complained of a lack of specific legislations aimed at protecting the children. “We do not have children’s laws in Kuwait and although the government ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, no new local laws were formulated to ensure that the articles of this convention are implemented,” he told the Kuwait Times. He explained that children were being subjected to four kinds of violence: “Negligence, exploitation, sexual abuse, and physical and verbal aggression.

During my work, I did many researches on violence against children and through my dealing with the investigation department and police, I found that 90 percent of the cases were not registered due to the traditions of our conservative community, especially cases about sexual abuse in the family,” added Al- Muhanadi. Al-Muhanadi demanded issuing the ‘Custody Removal Law’ to achieve the necessary protection for abused children. “In Kuwait, we do not have a law to protect an abused child who still has to live with the aggressor.

Thus, the violating parents would not be punished. Even if the parent was to be punished for some time, he will return to the same house and live with the abused child. Usually, teachers do not report any cases, and the doctors only occasionally report a case against the mother or father if they find an instance of negligence or violence against the child, and this is clearly not enough,” he explained.

This law was not approved for many reasons. “The MPs did not work on approving this law as they think it may affect the reputation of the family and cause social problems. Also, the government found that to apply this law there should be a specially equipped center which can serve as a shelter for the abused children who were to be taken away from their parents,” Al-Muhanadi pointed out. He also mentioned some of the dramatic cases that he treated when he was working at the psychiatric department of the Ministry of Education. “I dealt with the case of a little girl who was sexually abused by her father who had divorced her mother.

When the school reported this to the police, the father did not attend the investigations, and they told us that in order to file a legal case at the court, it should be submitted by the person in charge, who was the girl. But how could she have done that when she was living at his house? And even if he was to be imprisoned for some time, he would have then returned again to the house,” he pointed out. On his part, attorney Mubarak Mijzea separated such actions into misdemeanors and crimes. “If the case involved negligence towards the child – for example if the child was hurt because of falling from the balcony where the parents left him alone at home and omitted to lock the door, then it will be negligence – it is classified as misdemeanor and the parent may be sentenced to six months or up to one year of imprisonment.

The sentence becomes higher if the injury was more serious or the child died,” he stated. The violence may be considered a crime. “If the forensic doctor found injuries on the body of the child, they will have to investigate how these were caused. If these were found to have been a result of beating or physical violence or torture, then it would be classified as a crime and the suspect could be convicted and sentenced to no less than three years of imprisonment, which can be even more depending on the injury,” he further said. “This, of course, applies to anybody in charge of a minor, be it a teacher, doctor or nurse. If they cause any injury by being negligent, they will be punished as well. Also, if such people find injuries on the body of a child, they should report it as soon as possible to free themselves from the responsibility as they may be accused later of causing such an injury,” stressed Mijzea.

By Nawara Fattahova, Kuwait Times Staff

- Kuwait Times