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POST TIME: 18 September, 2019 12:40:45 AM
Corporal punishment: Attitudes must change

Corporal punishment: Attitudes must change

In yet another instance of brutality perpetrated by a teacher on school a student, a girl lost her eyesight in Hobiganj when her teacher hit her left eye with his cane. That the teacher was carrying a cane indicates that he used it to ‘discipline’ students with corporal punishment which is banned according to the law of the land. A school is supposed to be a place where a child should feel safe and secure. The unfortunate reality is quite different.

Physical punishment of children is a violation of fundamental human rights as it violates the right to respect for human dignity and physical integrity. Generally in this country, however, there is still deep-rooted acceptance of it at all levels. While there have been concerted global efforts to end violence against women, violence against children has not yet received the same attention and priority.

The most common justification for its use given by parents, teachers and guardians is that it ‘disciplines’ children. In fact, it is a reflection of adults’ inability to control their own anger, and a lack of understanding of child psychology and behaviour. Children’s physical vulnerabilities make them easy targets, since they can’t resist and defend themselves against such violence.

The UN has stated that all corporal punishment, as well as non-physical punishment which “belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules” children is “cruel and degrading” and therefore not compatible with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Addressing the widespread acceptance or tolerance of corporal punishment of children and eliminating it, in the family, schools and other settings, is not only an obligation of states parties under the convention. It is also a key strategy for reducing and preventing all forms of violence in societies.

School teachers should provide a written undertaking that they will not engage in any action that could be construed as physical punishment, mental harassment or discrimination. There should also be a biannual social audit of physical punishment, harassment and discrimination at all public and private schools and other non-formal settings. Along with this, there is a need to change attitudes about children’s right to equal protection at every level.