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Child abuse threatens family and society alike in Oman

All stakeholders are sparing no effort to overcome this social and health issue

Child abuse marks a critical social and health issue all over the world. It is simply defined as a maltreatment of a child below 18 years old by an adult, a parent, a caregiver or someone else. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), child abuse creates all forms of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, neglect or commercial and other exploitation causing an actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, development or dignity in a context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.

As the Sultanate of Oman is concerned, child abuse stands as an alarming threat due to the increasing child abuse cases. Starting the records in 2015 by the Ministry of Social Development, this year recorded 102 cases while the cases have increased over the following years recording 442 in 2017 and 1,416 in 2018. Further, the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 recorded 488, 1,040, 1,650 cases of different child abuse types consecutively. Unfortunately, the child abuse phenomenon is extremely increasing year after another in the country. Hence, this raises the flag of danger to the concerned stakeholders and nation overall.

In response to this matter, child abuse issue has been accorded high attention from the authorities concerned in Oman, striving to combat the increase in cases. All stakeholders, including the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Royal Oman Police, Public Prosecution, and others are sparing no effort to overcome this social and health issue.

Each has been taking the necessary measures to support the government’s efforts and endeavours in this regard. Case in a point, the Ministry of Social Development is leaving no stone unturned striving to overcome this challenging issue and handle its related consequences. The ministry is dedicating a special department concerned about the rights and welfare of family and child all over the country.

With regards to child abuse issue, there are different teams concerned about the various aspects of this matter and are supported by other stakeholders. However, prior to the emergence of child abuse issue in the Sultanate of Oman, the government approved the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1996 and its two Optional Protocols in 2004. Post endorsing this Convention, the Omani Legislation included different sections formed to support child protection and better promote child abuse prevention. Such legislation includes but not limited to the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled Act, Juvenile Accountability Act, Trafficking in Persons Act and the Omani Child Law, which was issued in May 2014, as per the Royal Decree No 22/2014.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Social Development issued Ministerial Decision (125/ 2019) stipulating the legislation of Child Law. Moreover, the Omani Penal Law, promulgated by the Royal Decree No 7/2018, included Articles (44,45,254,257,278-287,298,349) regulating child protection and preventing any act of child abuse in the Sultanate of Oman, serving all children regardless of their origins.

On the other hand, the ministry issued, in 2008, the Ministerial Decision (78/2008) to form 11 multi-disciplinary Child Protection Committees (CPC) in all governorates of Oman. These Committees have been responsible for investigating, following-up, managing and rehabilitating victims of child abuse.

The ministry also established, in 2013, a welfare and rehabilitation homecare unit, called “Dar Al Wifaq”, dedicated to host abused children and provide them the necessary protection and welfare services. Further, the ministry conducts annual awareness sessions on child abuse and child’s rights and protection at schools, health centres and public places, targeting school students and families.

Likewise, the ministry established, in 2016, the 24-hour Child Protection Hotline (1100), to receive complaints and the reported cases and incidents of child abuse from all governorates around the country.

The hotline’s team transfers the reported incidents and cases to the child protection correspondents, based in all governorates. As well, the team liaises with the other concerned government bodies to handle different cases that require either an immediate or a later intervention like Royal Oman Police, Public Prosecution or Ministry of Health.

(The article is part of a social research conducted by the writer)

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