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Children are not private property
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 23 - 01 - 2017

THE story of the infant girl Dareen, however shocking, is an eye-opener toward a sensitive, societal issue, which is child abuse. This poor infant was a tool in the hands of the abusive father, who used abusive tactics to pressure the infant's mother and to break her heart. Only a heartless person would use pain to seek pleasure. No parent could bear watching the insane video of the abusive father strangling the infant and slapping her repeatedly. No one could imagine a man or a woman doing this to an infant, let alone the infant's own father. The moment the video of Dareen's abuse went viral on social media, the public was outraged and the authority represented here by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development was quick to react, contact the mother and rescue the infant from the clutches of her abusive father.
Days later another case of child abuse surfaced following the circulation of another video in the social media, this time of a young boy being flogged by his uncle. The video showed the back of the boy with blood marks left by whiplashes. Again, the public was outraged when this video surfaced and again, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development got involved swiftly and rescued the boy and held the uncle.
The common thing in the two cases was the emerging power of social media, which ratchets up public opinion in minutes. In these two cases the viral clips instigated public reaction against the violence and at the same time, forced the authorities to quickly act. But not all cases are brought to light for such swift action, there are still some who suffer silently.
Violence against children is a very serious issue that needs to be dealt with quickly and tough laws against it should be framed and established. Child abuse is an international phenomenon and exists in all societies, not only in Saudi Arabia. And many societies are taking the fight to the abusers with tough laws and action. According to statistics from the Ministry of Social Affairs that was published in a Riyadh newspaper last year, 45 percent of children in the Kingdom are facing abuse, which is almost half of the child population in the Kingdom.
Abusive parents think that children are their private property and they can do whatever they want with them. They think that the form of punishment they mete out to their own children is just another way of disciplining them, without realizing that it is pure torture that would have negative implication on the psychology of that child. It is normal to see a father or a mother in public slapping, cuffing or berating the child if he/she misbehaves. What is scary is that it could happen without anyone interfering because they see it as a family matter and within the parent›s rights. Such action against children if it happened in Europe or America would be classified as violence against children and the parent might be arrested and the child taken away.
The tragedy of the child Ghusoon and Areej is still fresh in the minds of many, despite the fact that the cases happened more than nine years ago. In both cases, the father and stepmother tortured the two children to death. The two crimes rocked the peaceful society in Makkah, while ripples of shock, caused by these two cases, permeated all over the Kingdom. Luckily the Ministry of Labor and Social Development's intervention came in time in the case of Dareen and the Tabuk child before violence turned into murder.
Violent parents, who think of their children as property that they can do whatever they want with, have the wrong concept. We have great responsibility toward our children to care for them according to Islam. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, "Allah (SWT) will ask every caretaker about the people under his care, and the man will be asked about the people of his household." It was narrated in Bukhari and Muslim the Prophet's saying, "Every one of your (people) is responsible, and everyone is responsible for whatever falls under his responsibility. A man is like a shepherd of his own family, and he is responsible for them."
Some parents lack education on the right way to raise their own children. They think that being tough or violent against them will toughen them up. They lack knowledge of the consequences of their tough actions. Often I see parents beating their children believing that by doing so, they will grow strong and will be able to face challenges in the future. Some use this as a pretext to vent their frustrations. Such parents are living in an illusory world where they believe that the quick route to discipline is toughness and violence and not care and skillful molding of the child. How they end up with such a thought, I have no idea. For violence begets violence and the same method of violence used today, will be repeated in the future by the abused child against his own children.
Serious education needs to be instilled in all society members with a stress on their rights and the latest regulations against abuse. They also need to be made aware of the many methods of abuse and ways to report them to relevant authorities. A mother should never be silent anymore when a father is abusing their children, and vice-versa when step-motherly treatment is accorded to the children. Schools are doing a great job in reporting abuse cases when they see it and neighbors and friends should take a leaf out of the schools' book by bringing abuse to the notice of authorities if they see it. Tough laws should be created to show abusers that this is a crime today and not a form of discipline. Police should be ready to handle these cases and interfere sensitively, as violence is not a family matter anymore. By allowing the abusers to flourish you are fraying the social fabric. For a child that is abused today might grow up to be a criminal and harm society.
The writer can be reached at [email protected] Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng

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