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Protect our children, stop child abuse

21 June 2018

By PathFinders

All children should be protected from harm and be entitled to healthy development regardless of race, birth place and wealth. Unfortunately, the reality is that child abuse happens in all communities, including in Hong Kong.

As many current or former foreign domestic workers are responsible for undertaking childcare duties for their employers and/or have to care for their own children, it is very important for them to have a clear knowledge of the legal boundaries and social expectations related to child protection in Hong Kong. 

In this article, we aim to raise awareness on child protection by sharing child abuse cases and providing advice for FDWs on ways to protect their children and the children they care for.

Child abuse falls typically into four categories: physical, sexual, psychological and neglect.

According to statistics from the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department, 947 cases of child abuse were reported in 2017 in Hong Kong.

Within the community of migrant mothers and children, PathFinders last year handled 23 cases in which the children involved were at risk. Since its establishment in 2008, Pathfinders has helped 2,497 toddlers and children (aged 0-2), of whom 170 were at significant risk of abuse, violence, neglect or trafficking.

In Hong Kong, specific ordinances and legislations have been established and enforced to combat child abuse.

The first case we would like to share involved a current FDW. Last December, the worker filmed three children under her care (aged five to seven) naked in a shower. Unaware that the filming and publishing were illegal, she then live-streamed the 17-minute video on Facebook. The FDW was subsequently arrested for “publication of child pornography”.

Although the regretful FDW pleaded guilty to “obtaining access to a computer with dishonest intent” and her employer accepted her apology in a mitigation letter, the maid was still sentenced to three months’ imprisonment due to the seriousness of the offence.

The maximum penalties for violating these two ordinances are a $2 million fine and imprisonment of 5 years for the first offence, and 8 years for the second.

Apart from the FDWs, migrant mothers in Hong Kong are also at risk of committing child abuse and of unintentionally putting their children in danger.

The second case, which PathFinders handled, was that of a 3-year-old boy who lived in a government-funded shelter with his migrant mother and 6-year-old brother. The abuse occurred when the mother took her sons to visit their father. Angry over a minor misbehavior, the father poured hot water on his younger son, seriously scalding the little boy’s lower torso and thighs.

As a victim of the father’s abuse herself, the mother was terrified. To protect herself and her children from further abuse, she decided not to report the father’s crime to the police.

The migrant women involved in both cases did not intend to cause any harm to the children they cared for. However, their lack of knowledge about child protection, parenting skills and, in the second case, the mother’s lack of confidence and emotional strength, led them to unintentionally violate the law or being unable to act in the best interest of the children under their care.

Given the vast differences in the cultural, legal and social environments between their home countries and Hong Kong, it is very important for migrant mothers and FDWs to have a clear understanding of the laws concerning child abuse in Hong Kong and to develop their overall knowledge of how to protect children’s rights and safety.

PathFinders provides counseling, education workshops and shelter to enrich the FDWs’ and migrant mothers’ childcare and parenting skills, equipping them with the knowledge and resilience to fight child abuse and empowering them to do the right thing in protecting the children under their care from harm.

Child protection is not only the responsibility of parents. It requires awareness and support from all caregivers and the entire community. To report child abuse, please call the Hong Kong Police at 999.

For enquiries and assistance, you may contact Hong Kong Social Welfare Department at 2343 2255 or PathFinders’ client hotline at 5190 4886. For information on PathFinders’ workshops, please visit our website at www.PathFinders.org.hk or call our client hotline.

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