Muscat: A father forcing his teen daughter into prostitution, a 17-year-old girl violently beaten by her mother and many more disturbing stories marked 2016 in Oman, social workers lamented even as the Ministry of Social Development continues to work to raise awareness to protect children.
According to the ministry, in 2016, of the estimated 300 cases of child abuse, at least 100 were reported through a hotline (1100) which was tested last year for a period of six months.
“The ministry received at least 100 calls from children in 2016 and the number is expected to rise this year following our social media campaign,” Shamsa Al Hajri from the family protection department of the ministry, told the Times of Oman. Most reports of such abuse involved sexual harassment perpetrated by a relative, according to Al Hajri.
Giving a breakup of the figures, she said 55 per cent of the cases involved parental negligence. A ministry official revealed that 24 per cent of the reports were related to sexual abuse, followed by physical abuse in 18 per cent cases and emotional abuse in 3 per cent cases.
However, both the genders suffered a similar share of abuse as under-18 boys accounted for 53 per cent of the victims, compared to 47 per cent girls. However, expat and Omani children can now heave a sigh of relief as the ministry is encouraging them to report any case of abuse to the government’s social workers following the official inauguration of the Child Protection Hotline (1100).
The number will also cater to Omanis living outside the Sultanate.
The Ministry of Social Development officially launched the free 24/7 hotline on Wednesday under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Al Kalbani, Minister of Social Development.
The hotline was tested for a period of six months last year.
Dr Yahya Al Hanai, head of the family protection department at the ministry, said 41 per cent of Oman’s population comprises children.
Of them, 43 per cent children in Oman are below the age of five, according to 2015 statistics reported by the Social Development Ministry.
“A hospital in Muscat reported a case of negligence using the hotline. In that case, parents had taken their two-month-old infant baby out of the hospital against the doctors’ orders,” a social worker said.
“We met with the family and made them sign a pledge to ensure that they will take their baby for further check-ups in other hospital. They did as they had promised and we made sure they obliged,” she said.
Another report was about a school girl who had fainted in a school following an episode in which her own mother had beaten her.
The ministry official said they immediately transferred the child to a hospital for treatment and kept her at a care centre until the public prosecution finalised the case.
“We kept an eye on the child when she returned home to ensure she was safe,” she added.
Her Highness Sayyida Basma Al Said, a mental health expert and owner of the Whispers of Serenity Clinic, said she stumbled across several cases of girls selling their bodies to feed their family and other cases of sexual abuse, in some cases at the hands of a child’s own father or mother.