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The Musas: when cultural differences meet child protection

Cultural differences can cause all sorts of awkward or embarrassing misunderstandings – HSBC made countless adverts where the central conceit was someone failing to fit in with a different culture, such as making an ‘ok’ sign in Brazil, where it’s actually a rude gesture. A lot of the time these misunderstandings are harmless and easily resolved, but unfortunately that’s not always the case.

Depending on who you ask, this could well be what happened to the Musas, a Nigerian family living in the borough of Haringey. The case is an incredibly contentious one, with some believing that Haringey Council acted in the best interest of the Musa children while others contend that there’s a conspiracy at the heart of what happened. What we know is this: in 2010, five children were removed from the care of Mr and Mrs Musa after an SOS message from their eldest daughter was found.  The case was then reopened a year later after the Musas’ new baby received a morphine overdose, and the parents were both given a seven year jail sentence.

The Musas’ case is particularly dramatic, with many people speculating about what may or may not be true. However, it is true that the way we discipline children in England differs to a lot of African countries, where corporal punishment is more accepted. These differences can lead to African parents having their children taken into care over here – it’s such a problem that the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect has created a guide to help African parents understand British laws regarding child abuse.

Some may argue that abuse is abuse, no matter your country of origin, but it is often difficult to come around to new ways of thinking if you have been taught something different your entire life. Ultimately, the best thing for children and parents alike is to gain a better understanding of how the British legal system works so that these problems never arise in the first place.

If you would like to know more about the issues covered in this article, Vardags offers a free consultation to qualifying individuals.

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