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August 28, 2016
People entrusted with child care who create or distribute child pornography face at least 10 years in jail and fines of up to Dh1 million, the final version of the Child Protection Law stipulates.
Informally named Wadeema's Law, in memory of an eight-year-old Emirati girl tortured to death by her father and his girlfriend, the legislation covers abuse and criminal negligence of children. It took effect on June 15 this year.
The legislation included 75 articles that cover new provisions not addressed by other laws, said Jassim Al Hosni, the first judge of appeals at Dubai Courts.
He said the law specified that offenders could not claim ignorance of their victim's age as their defence.
"It is noteworthy that Article 70 of the law stipulates that the offender may not claim that they are unaware of the victim's age," Mr Al Hosni said.
The law prohibits production, distribution, display and possession of any photos where a child is depicted in an indecent position, whether real or simulated.
Communications companies and network service providers must notify authorities if child pornography is circulated on the internet and provide information on the people or sites circulating such material.
Failing to report will result in a minimum of six months in jail and fines of between Dh100, 000 and Dh1m.
If people entrusted with child care are found taking part in producing or filming pornographic material, they can be imprisoned for at least 10 years.
Possession of child pornography will lead to a year in jail and a minimum fine of Dh100, 000. Using the internet or other forums to transmit such material will lead to similar punishments.
The law also prohibits torturing or harming a child, with offenders facing fines of at least Dh50, 000. Parents or guardians can be fined more than Dh5, 000 for failing to register a child at birth, not enrolling them in school and for abandoning them.
Prevention is a key element of the new law, said Hassan Elhais, legal consultant at Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants. "I believe this law will make a major difference and it will be followed by many other countries in the Middle East," Dr Elhais said. "This law achieves all three points. It will make any potential criminal think twice before committing any of the crimes listed. The law gives the highest protection to children. It really aims to protect children from a small age until they grow up."
Aid workers believe there will be fewer cases of abuse with the new law.
"There is no doubt that the Child Protection Law will help reduce child abuse and violation of their privacy," said Ahmed Al Tartoor, a senior official with Sharjah's Social Services Department's children's rights section.
"The enactment of strict laws will keep them away from harm."