Posted on April 15, 2011

A children’s court, separate from the regular adult court process, will be established in Qatar and the age of criminal responsibility for children will be increased from seven to 12 or older.

The National Development Strategy (NDS) 2011-2016 has stated that once enacted, the draft child law will provide a comprehensive framework within which all activities relating to children will be implemented and measured. These activities will cut across multiple sectors of the NDS, which asserts that in all legal and policy decisions the state will adopt “best interests of the child” criteria, especially in custody and child protection cases.

The government will adopt a holistic approach to child well-being as well. Although international child measures indicate Qatar is in a fairly good position in relation to other countries in the region, Qatari children face threats ranging from health to education to risk-taking behaviours. The NDS cites some of the significant health and nutritional issues among Qatari children, identified in a recent Aspetar Hospital study.

As many as 90% of girls showed vitamin D deficiency, 46% were osteopenic (a condition where bone mineral density is lower than normal), and 27% had osteoporosis (the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time). Average body mass index among Qatari boys (ages 10–13) was 22kg per sq m (in 90th percentile) indicating severe obesity. About 50% of Qatari boys are in the 22–36 kg per sq m range.

Qatar has already taken major steps to strengthen its commitment to children’s welfare, safety and health. The comprehensive draft child law will ensure that Qatar complies with the most important piece of internationally accepted legislation in relation to children’s rights. But the NDS provides the government the opportunity to do more to enhance the well-being of children, as recent data point to significant health problems in the next generation, such as vitamin deficiencies and obesity.

Other health risks come from kinship marriages - which have led to increased rates of congenital birth defects - and smoking and drug abuse. Smoking rates among children ages 13–15, for instance, are 13% for girls and 25% for boys. The NDS states that reversing negative trends and improving the quality of life of children will require a series of activities that work in unison across all sectors of government to provide a just, healthy quality of life for Qatar’s current and future generations.

This work will also require changing behavioural attitudes and ensuring that personal pride and virtue are instilled in Qatari youth. The government will promote active citizenship and provide opportunities to develop necessary life skills in order to develop Qatar’s future leaders. A youth “parliament” will be formed to teach the concepts of democracy and strengthen children’s sense of civic and personal responsibility, justice and leadership. Training programmes are to be created to strengthen intergenerational relationships. The NDS also targets to reduce the number of under-18 drug addicts to 1%, the number of under-18 smokers to 10%, and halve the incidents of under-18 reckless driving.

source: Gulf Times