In a bid to protect children against violence and sexual assault, men have been barred from entering kindergartens in the country.
Ministry of Social Affairs’ Child Department director Moza Salem Al Shoomi said staff at nurseries will soon be taught to detect signs of abuse, adding that most of the children who had been sexually harassed and abused came from broken families that were not interested in bringing them up properly.
“Some relatives exploit the parents’ trust as 80 per cent of the abusers are relatives to the children.”
Al Shoomi added that some children were harassed repeatedly. “This means a missing intimate relationship between the children and their parents, particularly the mother.”
Al Shoomi said police reports showed that most of the children abused were boys under five years of age who were unable to understand the abuse or to voice their concerns at that early age.
“The ministry, taking responsibility after families as a licensure official body, has instructed all nurseries to install CCTV cameras, apart from safety tools suitable to young children.”
The ministry has also prevented all men from having access to the kindergartens. “All the nurseries detected with men inside, even if the owners themselves, would be fined, and forced not to let any man, even staff, enter the nursery, excluding the watchman, bus driver and gardener who do not directly communicate with children.”
She said the ministry, having detected some abuses from some bus drivers, has instructed all nurseries to appoint a female supervisor on the bus.
“Gardeners are only given access to the nursery after the end of the school day, and the watchman always remains outside the nursery which is instructed to contract a specialised security company to employ professional watchmen.”
Al Shoomi urged parents to be watchful and not to place too much trust in anyone, particularly relatives. “A mother discovered pornographic messages and pictures a grocer was sending to her child on his cell phone,” she said, citing an example of a recent case.
Indicating the importance of sexual awareness, Al Shoomi said a mother should train her children not to let anyone touch certain parts of their bodies or get close to them in any unacceptable way, no matter who they were.
“Children should also be urged to inform their families about any abuses because abusers mostly threaten the children not to talk… and warn them their families would blame them.”
Warning families against scaring their children, Al Shoomi said they should only alert their children in a simple way.
“All supervisors are trained to monitor children’s behaviour and detect any changes or signs of physical violence, such as children’s unreasonable fear, anger, shyness and going to the toilet several times.”
Al Shoomi said the drive, to be launched in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior, supports the Wadima Law. “It is the responsibility of us all to show cooperation and report any abuse against children.”