With reporting from Riham Sheble
Around one in five children in Qatar is subject to some form of abuse, either at home or in school, a recently released report by the Supreme Council for Family Affairs has found.
The report, “Abuse and Violence Against Children,” which is currently only available in Arabic, examines a wide range of abuses, from verbal bullying and unintentional negligence to physical and sexual assault. The results are based on a study of 500 families – 59 percent expat and 41 percent Qatari – between October 2010 and January 2011.
Although the statistics used in the report are now more than two years old, they serve to shine a light on an issue that’s rarely discussed in Qatar, and one that the report acknowledges is becoming an increasing problem.
Abuse at home
The report states that 22 percent of domestic violence in Qatar is perpetrated against children, a figure that remains constant across all nationalities. It found that the majority (40 percent) of domestic child abuse incidents were carried out by the mother; 29 percent were carried out by a brother, 19 percent by the father, and the rest by domestic workers.
The report also found that the mother’s educational level had a direct relationship with the incidence of violence – the higher the level of education, the lower the percentage of violence.
Meanwhile, the data showed that the majority (57.8 percent) of abuse committed by domestic workers was by maids, while 20.8 percent was carried out by drivers. Most (76.2 percent) of this abuse fell into the “screaming, threatening and negligence” category, with the remaining 20 percent involving physical abuse, including smacking and beating.
Abuse at school
According to the findings, a significant amount of child abuse – primarily psychological abuse such as bullying – occurs within the school environment.
Some 38 percent of children are abused at school by other students, teachers or other employees at school, the authors found, concluding that male students are more likely to suffer physical abuse at school, and their female counterparts are more likely to be emotionally abused.
They also found that those who are domestically abused are also susceptible to abuse at school, probably because they are already vulnerable, and conditioned to believe that violence is an acceptable part of their relationships with others.
The report found that overall, sexual abuse was very rare, representing only 0.93 percent of abuses.
It states that sexual abuse represents 8.7 percent of the total violence against children in schools, “mostly” perpetrated by other students, but doesn’t go into further details.
Data for sexual abuse in the home, however, remains incomplete. The report states that drivers were responsible for 42.1 percent of sexual abuse cases, and male domestic helpers 21.1 percent, but it fails to account for the remaining 36.8 percent.
The report’s authors go on to make a lengthy list of recommendations of how incidents of child abuse can be reduced in Qatar. These include:
- The establishment of ‘counseling entities’ to offer guidance, and the introduction of phone hotlines for immediate advice;
- School awareness-raising programs, and online and television anti-abuse campaigns;
- More supervision in areas of schools where abuse commonly takes places, like in the toilets and in playgrounds;
- Introducing compulsory, regular medical checkups on children that examine both physical and mental health. The authors suggest using vaccination visits for this purpose;
- Putting together a directory of best practice for social workers, teachers and volunteers; and
- Carrying out more in-depth studies, particularly on domestic violence, and a request that government data, such as police reports and hospital records, be made available to researchers.
Health officials in Qatar said earlier this year that child abuse is severely underreported in Qatar, due to bureaucratic hurdles, insufficiently trained healthcare providers and a reluctance to break cultural taboos.
But the number of reported cases is still growing. In 2011, for example, the Qatar Foundation for Protection of Women and Children (QFPWC) dealt with 769 cases of abuse, compared to 995 in the first nine months of 2012 alone.
Some 44.7 percent of abuse cases reported in 2012 were against children.
Qatar’s National Development Strategy points to a jump in domestic violence cases across the country, and calls for the establishment of a new law to define and criminalize the act by 2016. The report notes that this law is currently at the draft stage, having been initiated last summer.
Anyone who suspects abuse should contact the QFPWC hotline at 919.
It would be interesting to know how they compiled this report as it is easy to accuse drivers and maids of abuse and sexual abuse but who is really going to admit it was the parents or siblings especially if it was locals. These things are never talked about even if family members know what has or is going on.
Only 12% of abuse is carried out by “the help” according to this article. This suggests that the participants of this survey were willing to, and did, call out family members.
Sorry I was looking at the figures for sexual abuse
“The report states that drivers were responsible for 42.1 percent of sexual abuse cases, and male domestic helpers 21.1 percent”
That’s 63% for the hired help.
But less than 1% of total abuse.
Still, what you bring us is true in all of the world. It is very difficult for abuse victims to report the people who are supposed to care and love them.
I suspect and I am sure you do as well that it is much more than 1% of total abuse. Figures on sexual abuse are notorious unreliable for many reasons.
growing up in my school, there was wide spread sexual abuse mostly from students on other students as at the time they had 17 year old boys in the same school with 6 year olds often unsupervised.
im sorry but where was this that 17 year olds cant be unsupervised with 6 year olds other wise they would sexually abuse them?
im sorry but this really upset me
Sexual predators seek out the weak and powerless which a 6 yr old would consitute in gthe presence of a 17 yr old looking for such a thing.
Except is cases of sexual abuse, which, according to the survey, almost never happens in Qatar.
I have spoken to my students (adult Qataris) about corporal punishment and discipline many times, and I have found a surprising difference between what I consider to be appropriate discipline and what they consider to be appropriate discipline. I’m all for the odd smack on the bottom, but several students in one of my classes told me nonchalantly about cases of breaking children’s or siblings’ bones when they were misbehaving. These same students were also corporally punished at school (a practice that was relatively recently abolished). At least based on these discussions, I would say that the definition of abuse is something that can be subjective. Using the results of this survey to address what constitutes safe discipline and punishment would be wise. There could be classes for new parents and those that work with children. Many people simply don’t know how to discipline without their fists or vitriol.
As to avoid generalization, let me just say that for me personally, I cannot see how breaking the bones would be justifiable under any circumstances. That being said, growing up, the fear that we might get smacked a little or lightly flogged with a bamboo stick did help keep us in line.
That’s not to say that there weren’t many cases where adults (parents, teachers, etc.) had abused their “ability” to administer such punishment, but I think your students don’t see light corporal punishment from a parent as abuse, but a form of tough love.
That was my point really. What you see as abuse is largely based on what is normal in your culture, whether that be the culture of large group or a smaller group like a family. People need to know what is safe punishment.
You always read about breaking the cycle of abuse, and if it takes directly instructing people that it’s not okay to break bones or swear (or whatever) to break the cycle, that might be what is needed.
Let’s all take these percentages with caution: 0.9% cases of sexual abuses out of 500, that’s about 5. That’s an awfully small number to then break down further and then say 42% were committed by drivers. It is not really meaningful as you probably can’t (and shouldn’t) do anything with that number. It doesn’t explain anything nor does it give insights as to how to remedy to the situation.
0.9% of 500 is 4.5
Great, so there are cases with half abuses. More meaningful numbers!
The study interviewed 500 families, not individuals. But yes, we agree with you that the sexual abuse figures are underreported. Which is the case everywhere, but especially in conservative countries.
It’s not really about underreporting (which is absolutely true), it’s more that the numbers do not mean much . Let’s say each family has 5 kids, that’s 2500 kids maximum. When one runs down the numbers above (for example about 1% of sexual abuse, which is most likely way too low), we only get a handful of cases. Therefore breaking these down further more between domestic helpers, school, etc… is not statistically significant (and at the very least, these numbers have to be rounded out, 42.1% does not make any sense for such a small sample size). It may seem like nitpicking, but for this kind of report to be useful, the numbers need to be scientifically sound. Here, we have numbers, but we should not conclude much from them: maybe a majority of the abuses come from the domestic helpers. Or maybe not. There is not enough data to really know. Besides, as mention by others, the under-reporting adds to the uncertainty, as one might think it easier to report the driver than your dad, thus skewing both the number of cases as well as the ratios.
Publishing these numbers is not something neutral, people will try to interpret them, and it could do a lot of damage if people were to react based on such limited data. Once people start going up in arms against those pervert drivers, how (and who?) are we going to explain to them that maybe things are a little more complicated than that. People love black and white, and heavy-handed kneejerk reactions are always the easiest to take. (don’t get me wrong, there is nothing specific to Qatar here, but Qatar is also far from immune to this).
Transparency is great, but the information one gives needs to be treated with care, it always has a context and it’s usually difficult to master and can be easily construed.
So all-in-all, kudos to them for publishing the report and addressing the issue, but I would recommend to spend a bit more time thinking about what the numbers truly mean (if they mean anything at all).
Good explanation of the limits of stats. I think this gets lost too much in the news,
Reports like these only ever reveal the tip of the iceberg. It is very commendable that a study has been conducted and there is public conversation and hopefully internal government conversation generated. Hopefully a genesis to further examination and meaningful social and legislative reform and change.
While some ppl test the results, and others scramble to define what is and what is not considered abuse, can I find out how I can:
1. Protect my kids, and
2. Teach them how to protect themselves.
The definition of abuse–everything from verbal bullying to sexual abuse–is so broad that it’s not that useful. Verbal bullying on the playground is a different thing from being hit by a driver or a parent.
Some would say the pain from being hit fades a look quicker than that from verbal abuse.
I see children being abused by parents every single day in Doha. Abuse also includes neglect- witness all the children left unprotected in fast moving, often wildly driven vehicles, left to risk their lives. Yesterday I saw a child of around 7 standing with his whole torso through the sunroof, balanced on the seat backs, as his father- a very respectable looking Qatari man, drove at great speed. THAT is abuse