Sexual Abuse Of Children Mustn't Be Ignored In Arab Societies

Arab societies generally tend to brush under the carpet incidents of sexual harassment of children, particularly if the delinquent is a close relative, says a visiting psychiatrist.

But ignoring an incident can only aggravate the problem, says Dr Mamoun Obaid, from Belfast University in the UK. He was here at the invitation of the Family Counselling Centre (FCC) to lecture at a workshop on sexual harassment of children.

Obaid said that it is important for parents to make their children aware that they can be exposed to sexual harassment in certain places. Small children should be asked not to speak to strangers or allow someone to touch their body.

If the children are grown up, they can be told straightaway that they can be prone to sexual harassment, especially in school toilets or sports clubs. They should be made aware that even people at home like drivers, maids and close relatives can be the abusers.

Children should be encouraged to report cases of harassment to their parents immediately.

Obaid said that sexual harassment of children is quite common in the west but Arab and Muslim societies are no exception as such incidents also occur here, and more often than not, close relatives are involved.

He recalled an incident where an uncle of a young girl was harassing her. When the girl told her mother, she ignored it since the man involved was her own brother, said Obaid.

"The mother should have taken up the issue with him in order to protect her daughter, but she chose not to."

Baby sitters, sports trainers and teachers who are mostly in regular contact with children can be the culprits in some cases. There are also cases of fathers sexually harassing their daughters.

Obaid said that it is important for delinquents to be brought to book as statistics show that punishment does act as a deterrent.

Global statistics show that some 10 per cent to 16 per cent of those who have been punished for sexually harassing children, have changed their behaviour.

It is also important to treat the victims since they can begin generally suspecting anyone and everyone.

This is an extreme situation and can, obviously, adversely impact personality development.

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