Child Abuse Cases Rising In Bahrain


In addition the Ministry of Social Development will establish a national Centre for Child Protection, Dr Fadheela Al Mahroos, Chairwoman of the Child Protection Committee in Salmaniya Medical Complex, told the Tribune in an interview.

She attributed the rise in child abuse cases to socioeconomic issues like poverty and family disintegration which could be caused by marital discord, divorce, early marriages, age difference between young girls and older fathers, and polygamy.

“These social circumstances can be a source of frustration and a perfect milieu for domestic violence,” Al Mahroos said.

“The notion that child abuse and neglect are rare in the Arab peninsula is a myth that can no longer stand the strength of the evidence, and is unacceptable denial,” she said.

Between 1999 and 2001, 150 severe cases of child abuse and neglect were reported in Bahrain based on hospital records; 50 with physical abuse, 87 with sexual abuse, and 10 with both forms of abuse. The victims were 53 per cent males and 47 per cent females all aged around seven.

According to Dr Al Mahroos these cases represent just the tip of the iceberg while most of the less severe cases go unnoticed and unreported, making child abuse seem less recurrent while it is actually growing.

The influence of the media, the Internet, and TV, all of which showcase contents full of violence, can not be discounted, she said.

What made things worse, she said, was the tendency to generally ignore the abuse or even tolerate it. “It is considered a form of discipline, most abusers go unpunished and abused children continue to suffer and live with the consequences without support which could turn them into future abusers, continuing the vicious cycle.

“The social values and attitudes represent another challenge to the efforts for ending child abuse and neglect,” says the expert. Other challenges include a “deficiency in professionals’ response to the social, psychological and legal needs of children and their families,” and “a deficiency in child protection laws, policies and procedures for preventing and responding to child abuse and neglect.”

Dr Al Mahroos believes that root causes of child abuse must be addressed, social attitudes must be challenged and child protection laws must be enforced. It is also important that the justice system be sensitive to children’s needs and tough on perpetrators.

She said better education, training of professionals on recognition and response to child abuse is important. Providing a protective home environment, increasing public alertness, developing parenting skills and children’s social skills, as well as establishing hotlines are crucial.

Important steps are being taken in Bahrain this month to ensure prevention or, at least, minimisation of this problem. According to its website, Bahrain Women’s Society’s ‘Be-Free’ project for child abuse prevention is available since its launch in 2002 to create awareness of child abuse in the society and it provides monthly workshops on ‘basic life skills’ and ‘protection skills’ for children. The hotline of the Batelco Care Centre for Family Violence Cases is available for abused children.

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