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Our responsibility to protect children from corporal punishment By Kashif Mirza


Apr 23, 2022

The writer is an

economist, anchor,

analyst and the

President of all

 Pakistan Private

Schools’ Federation


Children’s rights are human rights, every child has a right to respect and dignity. This is not only because they are future adults, but also that they are human beings. They must enjoy the fundamental rights enshrined in constitutional provisions and international commitments. Corporal punishments are not in consonance with the constitutionally guaranteed right of inviolability of dignity notwithstanding Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure the protection of children from corporal punishment through proper enforcement of these laws. Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC) in 1990. By signing this convention, the state took upon itself the obligation of discouraging religious, cultural, customary or traditional practices inconsistent with children’s fundamental rights. Article 19 of this convention addresses violence against children. It emphasises that state parties must have proper laws in place to prohibit violence. It also requires states to implement administrative, social and educational measures to protect children from all forms of violence, both physical and mental, falling under Article 19.

No culture owns corporal punishment, but all have a responsibility to disown it, cultural norms can change — as can people. Violence as a means of establishing authority is a concept perpetuated across generations, from a time pre-dating the articulation of child rights.  Physical punishment actually makes children’s behaviour worse over time, rather than being linked to positive outcomes. Fear of pain or humiliation can be a tool for deterring ‘bad behaviour’ as long as the threat is present — but not for self-regulating behaviour when the adult is not present. As for learning, the impact can only be detrimental, pushing children away from the teacher as well as the space of learning. There will need to be greater clarity on the mechanisms for complaint and redress, and on how the penalties are to be applied. In addition, while experiences from all over the world have shown that legal prohibition of corporal punishment works, it is not enough. Teachers, care institution staff and — in the case of juvenile justice systems — the police, will need support in order to change and to embrace new codes of conduct in practice. To transform a classroom culture that they themselves have known, teachers need to be equipped with alternative tools and strategies to corporal punishment. Another important aspect that will have to be addressed is how parents and caregivers approach the issue. Punishment of children is common in home and at school. The resort to it is made to ensure development or elimination of certain behaviour in minors. The punishment used is mainly of three types: (1) presenting something undesirable after a behaviour, for instance, chastising, shouting or hitting; (2) taking away something positive after a behaviour, examples are taking away a privilege or isolating from an activity; (3) requiring a child to perform some undesirable and unwanted task, such as making him clean up the mess created by him or making him do sit-ups or standing with hands up.

In 2016, lawmakers responded to the issue of cruelty to children through a criminal law amendment bill by inserting Section 328-A into the PPC, which criminalises cruelty to a child. However, there is a need to also amend Section 89, which serves as a defence for these accused of cruel punishment and abuse in the name of discipline or good faith. It is encouraging that the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has banned corporal punishment by introducing Section 33 of The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Protection and Welfare Act, 2010. which states that Corporal punishment stands abolished in all its kinds and manifestations, and its practice in any form is prohibited as provided under Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860. The Sindh government has banned corporal punishment through excellent legislation, The Sindh Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Act, 2016. The Government of Balochistan banned corporal punishment in schools through a directive issued in 2010, and The Balochistan Child Protection Act 2016 bans all forms of physical violence. The Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Act, 2021, has nullified the effect of Section 89 for Islamabad Capital Territory. Unfortunately, comprehensive legislation to deal with the issue of corporal punishment in the province of Punjab is still missing. The Punjab government banned corporal punishment in provincial public and private schools in 2018 through the notification. Corporal punishment is also prohibited under Section 16 of the Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2014, but the law is yet to be notified for implementation. Several laws, such as Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill 2014, have been formulated that prohibit physical torture of children and specify punishments for such acts. Yet, the proper implementation of these laws seems a distant dream.

Every child has a right to respect and dignity. This is not only because they are future adults, but also that they are human beings.

It is believed that while punishment may surely have an immediate effect, it is not enduring. In other words, for the time being the child changes his behaviour, but the change is not lasting. Child who is disinclined to doing his or her homework , if chastised or beaten, will surely do his or herchomework at the  time to escape the further punishment , but this will not create in him any enduring interest in doing  homework . Similarly, if a child does not talk with elders politely, the act of punishing him or her on it will not help in creating lasting respect for elders in his or her mind. The punishment produces negative effects on a child. It produces negative reactions in the child. This includes crying, arguing or even striking a parent or a teacher. Another effect on the child is consolidated feelings of distancing himself or herself, physically and psychologically, from the person who punishes- whether a parent or a teacher. Besides, punishment increases in a child aggressive behaviour, or she may retaliate by hitting the punisher. Moreover, the punishment technique models behaviour that the child tends to use with his peers. If a child is shouted at, he or she uses shouting with his or her peers, and if is beaten, he or she learns resorting to hitting when with peers. Instead of spanking, better discipline strategies can be formed to transform the conduct of children. It will be very productive to use praise as a tool for influencing child behaviour. If a minor does something good he or she should be praised for it. Praising one in the presence of other children, will also produce a stimulating effect on the rest for adopting the admired behaviour.

The rebuke and criticism of wrong habits and activities can make children disinclined to these.  They will, by and large, remain tend not to display such conduct or adopt such habits that are reprimanded. Children often become rude when they think that they are not given a chance to express their feelings and are not being listened to. Speaking with them with a gentle tone of voice and conveying to them the realization that they are listened and honoured can make them turn around their rough and rude attitude to a good and liked one. Rewarding is another helpful tool for shaping conduct of children. An incentive can prompt one to shed off misbehaviour and exhibit the attitude for which it is promised. Ignoring mild misbehaviour can prove more effective than spanking. Snatching a certain privilege for time being may also be a useful tactic. For example if a child watches television or plays a game more than the prescribed time, he or she can be deprived of the television and the game for 24 hours. Next time the minor will think against indulging himself or herself in the activity more than the designated time. Children are to be treated with honour and respect so that they could retain their dignity and self-respect. There is a dire need of educating parents and teachers on how to influence the behaviour of children without turning to corporal kind of punishment.

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