United Arab Emirates: Child Protection, Discrimination And Reporting Obligations

In the past few months, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has seen the introduction of a Federal Child Rights Law and the subsequent release by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) of a new Child Protection Policy. We have also seen a steady number of complaints, and prosecutions, being brought under the Anti Discrimination Law (introduced last year), the wide provisions of which could well extend, for example, to comments made between students and/or staff. This article explores the key implications of these developments for schools in the UAE.

Federal Law No. 3 of 2016 (Childs Right Law)

The Childs Right Law is aimed at protecting the rights of children across the UAE.

The Child Rights Law contains a section on "Educational Rights" which includes an obligation on the State to prohibit all kinds of violence in educational institutions and to preserve the dignity of children.

The Child Rights Law also refers to the State's obligation to develop specific and organised programs for reporting and filing complaints in order to ensure investigation of acts and irregularities violating educational rights "in the manner specified by the Executive Regulations".

The Executive Regulations to the Child Rights Law have not (at the time of writing this article) been published.

As a Federal Law, the Childs Rights Law applies across all of the Emirates. Whilst the extent of the reporting and complaint filing obligations is unclear (for schools outside of Abu Dhabi at least) pending receipt of the Executive Regulations, schools would be well advised to review their child protection policies in light of the apparent renewed focus on this issue.

ADEC Child Protection Policy

Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) has released a Child Protection Policy which applies to all public and private schools in Abu Dhabi, the key provisions of which are summarised below.

  • Publication of Child Protection Policy - Public schools must comply with ADEC's Child Protection Policy whereas, for private schools, there is a positive obligation to publish their own child protection policy which meets, and does not contradict, ADEC's Child Protection Policy. Private schools in Abu Dhabi should therefore review their existing child protection policies to ensure compliance with the new ADEC Child Protection Policy (particularly in relation to reporting obligations and requirements, explained below).
  • Scope of protection - One of the stated purposes of ADEC's Child Protection Policy is the protection of students whilst in a school's care from "all acts and omissions constituting physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation, neglect, and bullying". Behaviours in students which might indicate each of the above, are set out in the Child Protection Policy. Staff should be trained to identify such indicative behaviours and encouraged to raise any suspected issues with the Principal at an early stage.
  • Role of school Principal - ADEC's Child Protection Policy emphasises the importance of the school principal as "guardian" of all students whilst they are under the school's care. Additionally, it states that the school principal is responsible for ensuring that child protection procedures are understood by all staff. This serves as a further reminder of the importance of the role of, and potential liabilities of, the principal of a school. Principals will of course want to take proactive measures to ensure that all staff are aware of, and comply with, ADEC's Child Protection Policy.
  • Wide responsibility for the protection of students - A school's responsibility for the protection of students includes travel to and from school using school transport and moving between, waiting for and taking part in all activities organised by the school inside and outside of the school premises. Safety on school transport is of course a topical issue following a number of fairly high profile incidents, prompting an announcement prior to the start of the academic year of tighter safety measures on school buses.
  • Reporting obligation - All school staff must report cases of suspected abuse or neglect directly to the Ministry of Interior Child Protection Centre within 24 hours using the reporting link available on ADEC's website. This obligation extends beyond school staff to those who have regular or temporary contact with students or provide services to the school. Schools should consider how to effectively communicate this message to non-staff.
  • Suspension of duties - Any staff member who is suspected of an offence involving student abuse and/or neglect must be suspended from duties pending the outcome of the investigation. Such suspension should be with full pay and it should be made clear that no decision has been reached regarding the allegations. When communicating the allegations to the relevant staff member, regard must also be had to the wide reaching defamation laws in the UAE which make it a criminal offence to publish a statement regarding another which is capable of subjecting that other to punishment or exposing him to public hatred or contempt (even where such a statement is true). Any correspondence in relation to allegations of this nature should therefore be very carefully drafted. Consideration should be given to how the staff member's absence will be explained to other staff, students and parents to ensure that, assuming the charges are not upheld, the staff member is able to return to the school with minimal disruption.

Federal Law No. 3 of 1987, as amended (UAE Penal Code)

Schools in the UAE need to be alive to the potential criminal implications of comments made between students and/or staff.

Where comments made between students and/or staff are of a religious or sexual nature, this could potentially amount to a crime under the UAE Penal Code.

Students, parents and staff should be made aware of the types of conduct and/or comments which will be considered unacceptable by the school and/or in breach of UAE law and should be warned of the potentially very serious implications of committing such conduct / making such comments.

Schools must also be aware that, under the UAE Penal Code, there is a general duty to report criminal conduct to the police. This duty can sometimes be problematic for employers where, for a variety of reasons, they do not wish to involve the police.

Federal Law No. 2 of 2015 on Preventing Discrimination and Extremism (Anti-Discrimination Law)

The Anti-Discrimination Law is primarily aimed at preventing religious extremism. However, its terms are fairly widely drafted and include, for example, disparaging the "Devine Entity" or disrespecting any of the "the heavenly religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism".

There have been a number of reported cases of prosecutions under the Anti-Discrimination Law relating to comments made publically on social media. Students, parents and staff should be cautioned to carefully consider what they post on social media and should be warned of the potentially very consequences where inappropriate comments are made.

Whilst the majority of reported cases appear to relate to comments made publically, there have also been examples of prosecutions for comments made in a private forum. For example, a Syrian doctor was jailed for 7 years and fined AED 500,000 for insulting God and Islam whilst arguing with the owner of the medical clinic for which he worked. Prosecutions could therefore conceivably be made in relation to negative comments of a religious nature between students or staff, for example.

The Anti-Discrimination Law provides for joint liability for representatives, managers or agents of a corporate body if any of their employees commit an offence under the Anti-Discrimination Law in the name and on behalf of the corporate entity. It is therefore particularly important that schools have in place robust anti-discrimination policies which clearly set out the standards of behaviour expected of staff and that staff are regularly trained on such policies. In the event of a dispute, this should assist in demonstrating that any discriminatory comments made by staff were not "in the name and on behalf of" the school.

However, under the Anti-Discrimination Law, persons may be discharged from penalties under the law where they report a crime before it is otherwise detected. This, together with the duty to report under the UAE Penal Code, means that staff need to be encouraged to report such matters to the Principal / HR as soon as possible so that appropriate action (which may include reporting the matter to the police) can be taken.

Actions for Schools

In light of the apparent renewed focus on child protection issues in the UAE, and wide scope of the provisions under the Penal Code and Anti-Discrimination Law, all schools would be well advised to take the following actions:

  • Review their current Child Protection Policy in light of Child Rights Law or, for those in Abu Dhabi, the ADEC Child Protection Policy. For schools in Abu Dhabi, the reporting obligations and procedures should be clearly stressed.
  • Ensure that a regular training programme is in place so that all staff, and those providing services to the school, are made fully aware of the provisions of the school's child protection policy.
  • Put in place a policy to warn students (and their parents) and staff of cultural and legal requirements in the UAE and the potential implications of making comments which offend the UAE or religion, for example, on social media or otherwise.

Child Protection, Discrimination And Reporting Obligations

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions