In countries throughout the world, child rights and safety are a concern. Saudi Arabia is no different and recent developments within the Kingdom have brought about programs which highlight the priority of promoting attention to domestic violence and child abuse or neglect. Recently the National Family Safety Program, under the auspices of the NGHA and in cooperation with the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) held "The 3rd Arab - ISPCAN Regional Conference on Child Protection". The topic was "Child Protection in Arab Countries: Working Together Towards Safer Childhood".
The NFSP was created to build awareness and a safe community which protects and defends individuals' rights and helps the victims of domestic violence.
The goal of this unique program is to establish a safe, collaborative, and cooperative environment that resists domestic violence through activation of national culture, respecting the rights of individuals, especially the most vulnerable such as women, children, the elderly and people with special needs.
This can be achieved by launching comprehensive awareness through various channels that include all segments of society, in addition to provision of adequate medical and psychological care with social assistance to victims of domestic violence and child abuse or neglect in all regions of the Kingdom. An additional priority is training professionals working in this field to deal effectively with those suffering from domestic abuse. To achieve these objectives, the program depends on the best national experiences and cooperates with all governmental organizations and NGO's serving this field.
The scope of work done by the NFSP includes performing research and surveys to determine the extent of abuse cases within the country as well as to utilize collected data in campaigns targeting social conditions which are factors in child abuse and neglect. This could include parenting skills in young couples. Additionally, in collaboration with the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), the National Family Safety Program offers intensive and specialized training courses to the professionals in different sectors in a number of Saudi cities. This goal helps to prepare those professionals who deal with children or childhood programs to become aware of signs of abuse and methods of decreasing its occurrence. Lastly, the NFSP works towards developing treatment centers within hospitals throughout the Kingdom in offering medical and social services for those in need.
According to statistics collected by the NFSP, the rates of child abuse within the Kingdom have increased eightfold between 2005 and 2007 to a reported 89 cases. Of those reported, 51 were boys and 38 girls. Forty two of the cases were infants under the age of two, 18 between the age of 2-5, 26 cases between the ages of 6-12 and 3 cases from 12-16 years old.
Abuse can take place in many different forms; however this report focused on three types; physical, sexual and neglect. The rates for the same period were 58.4%, 18%, and 31.4% respectively. The study also highlighted those who committed the majority of abuse cases and found that the rates were: the father (20.2%), the mother (29.2%), other family members (21.3), other than family such as drivers or domestic help (5.6%) and lastly, strangers (23.6).
There are times where certain stressors place pressure upon families which may induce more aggressive behavior such a lack of parenting skills dealing with difficult children. The study indicated that among those cases reported, 78 of the children were healthy, normal children, while 11 were handicapped in some manner.While these statistics can give us an idea about the abuse that goes on within the Kingdom, it is important to note that this is something which often goes unreported; consequently, the rates might be much higher than originally expected. It is therefore necessary to bring attention to such a social problem in efforts to find solutions. These can be through education of parents, teachers and all other individuals who work with children.
The main goal of the NFSP is protecting families and children from violence and abuse. This is achieved in three steps. Firstly, the departments of medical and social services provide services for child abuse and domestic violence victims through a group of consultant physicians, psychologists, and social workers. Examples of the services provided include:
- Accepting information from various sources on cases of abuse and locating necessary medical or social treatment programs.
- Taking all necessary actions to guarantee the rights of violence victims and their family members and protecting them against any future abuses in coordination with the security and judicial authorities, in addition to coordination with the Ministry of Social Affairs and charities according to the procedures adopted.
- Provide abusers with therapeutic and instructive services and psychological and social rehabilitation programs.
Secondly, it organizes scientific researches, studies, and basic and advanced training programs related to domestic violence and child abuse. Examples of this goal include:
- Contribute to the foundation of the National Registry for Child Abuse and Domestic Violence, as well as using the database in conducting studies and scientific researches.
- Establishing the basic and advanced training programs such as conferences, training courses and workshops.
- Support scientific researches and publications in the field of domestic violence and child abuse in Saudi Arabia to meet the shortage existing in this field, in addition to establishing rules and principles governing the conduction of studies and scientific research and standards of evaluation.
Thirdly, NFSP works to raise community awareness about domestic violence and child abuse and prevention, highlighting the role of the National Family Safety Program’s (NFSP) efforts in this regard. Examples of these activities include:
- Holding symposia, lectures, and social gatherings in schools, universities, social and recreational centers, as well as concerned governmental and non-governmental institutions and invite community leaders and specialists to participate in such educational events.
- Distributing educational flyers and brochures to individuals and organizations to spread the word about helping those who face abusive situations and to offer help to abusers.
- Creating public media which portrays the goals and programs of the NFSP to the public.
Membership in various causes is a worthwhile effort in promoting positive social change. In an effort to expand the reach of the NFSP and its activities, people who are interested may apply for one of three kinds of membership (Associate Member / Active Member/ Honor Member) if they meet the following criteria:
- Saudi citizenship
- Over 18 years of age
- Fully religiously qualified
- Free of any conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude
- Fully paid the annual subscription fees
For more information on child abuse and the NFSP program please see their web site at: http://nfsp.org.sa
In recognition of the importance of children’s rights and in promotion of public awareness in supporting childhood, please see Universal Children’s day: http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/children_day/