Rising violence against kids triggers call to ‘act’

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Updated 01 March 2013
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Rising violence against kids triggers call to ‘act’

Twelve children died as a result domestic violence in 2012, double the number from the previous year, according to Maha Al-Muneef, executive director of the National Family Safety Program (NFSP).
These cases are recorded at hospitals’ protection centers, she said recently on the sidelines of the celebrations of the World Thinking Day for Girl Guides and Scouts.
The 12 deaths jumped dramatically from six child deaths in 2011 and five reported in 2010.
A recent report by hospitals protection centers showed center personnel recorded 200 cases of child abuse in one year. Eighty percent of the cases were violence against children that resulted in severe injuries, and 20 percent were sexual abuse incidents.
“Unfortunately violence against children is mostly perpetrated by the parents,” Al-Muneef said.
Al-Muneef said a recent study that included more than 58 countries showed that in seven years, the rate of domestic violence ranged between 3 percent and as high as 70 percent of the population.
“The Kingdom’s rate is between 20 percent and 30 percent, which should makes us work on facing the issue by all means to curb it,” she said. “The NSFP is working on eliminating physical, sexual, mental abuse and negligence.”
Most of those affected by these types of abuse are women, girls, children, the elderly and people with special needs. The seventh National Society for Human Rights’ report that showed that 20 percent of the cases received by the society in 2010 are of domestic violence, which is the highest the NSHR had received since its inception. In these cases, female victims numbered 57 while boys accounted for 25 cases.
Shoura Council member Thuraya Al-Oraidh said she hoped the issue of violence against children would be put for discussion at the council among other issues that are of concern of a large proportion of the society.
Cases of violence against children are not new but the media did not bring them up as most of individuals in society considered it a family affair.
However, given an increased public awareness that admits the problem, the media has focused on it currently, she said.
Al-Oraidh did not think that child abuse is increasing, but public awareness has improved reporting of such case.The National Family Safety Program recorded more than 500 cases of violence against children in 2011.
Hussien Al-Sharif, president of the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR), called for accelerating the issuance of the Violence Against Women and Children Act that criminalizes such acts. He said that the problem is becoming worse due to the delay in issuing the act although it was discussed in the Shoura Council. The implementation of the act that determines penalties and jurisdictions of all parties in such cases, including the criminalization of those who know about violence cases but do not report them, would solve the issue.


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”