Tough laws must 'to tackle child abuse'
Manama, March 15, 2009
Child molesters are increasingly targeting children in the Middle East because of the lack of laws protecting them, it has emerged.
More than 60 per cent of youngsters in the Gulf have been contacted by a paedophile through chat rooms or via e-mail, according to a regional study.
Conducted by Saudi Arabia-based Al Watan newspaper journalist Mohammed Al Matter, it revealed that 83 per cent of children under 18 had received an e-mail containing inappropriate content.
The study also found that 62 per cent of children had been approached through e-mails or chat forums by strangers who had tried to encourage them to form relationships with them.
'The number of children exposed to pornography and bullying is very high,' said Bahrain Women's Association for Human Development president Dr Soroor Qarooni.
Dr Qarooni said many countries in the West imposed tough penalties on paedophiles, but in Bahrain and other Middle East countries there were no specific laws and that attracted more child molesters to come to this part of the world.
'Overall our laws are weak in this area,' she told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News.
'In the UK, British Telecom has links with parliament and we need to do something similar here.'
The Be Free Centre will hold the first conference in the Arab region to discuss effective strategies to stop online chid abuse, trafficking and pornography later this year.
International non-governmental organisations, telecom companies and UN experts will share their experiences on how to combat the problem.
MPs and Shura Council members, academics, social workers, teachers, lawyers and people involved in child safety are invited to attend. It will be held under the patronage of UN special rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography Najat Majid Maala.
The event is being supported by the British Embassy, which is covering the travel and accommodation costs of experts coming from the UK.
An opening ceremony will be held at the Cultural Hall, near Bahrain National Museum on May 8 and the conference will be held on May 9 and 10. The venue will be announced soon.
'In this conference we want to raise awareness about the importance of this issue in all sectors,' said Dr Qarooni.
Winners of the Be Free Centre's International Award for the Best Practice in the Prevention of Child Abuse, supported by Zen-Do Bahrain, will be announced at the conference.
The four award categories are: organisations that work directly or indirectly with children such as schools and hospitals; non-governmental organisations; individuals; and children and teenagers under 18.
The winner of each category will receive $2,000 (BD756), a Best Practice trophy and a certificate.
Awards are presented for best practices in child protection and prevention that utilise creativity and new dimensions.
'We are now in the process of choosing the winners,' said Dr Qarooni. 'We have had 22 applications from various countries and we are now evaluating them.
'We will choose four winners - one from each category and they will share their experiences at the conference.'
Nominations closed in February, but the centre is still accepting applications from one category - children and teenagers under 18.-TradeArabia News Service