Corporal Punishment Violates Children’s Dignity: Speakers

By: Our Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: To mark ‘International Day to End Corporal Punishment of Children’, child rights activist drawn attention towards the consequences of physical punishment for children and reiterate that it violates dignity of children. The session was organized by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC).

Khalil Ahmed Dogar, Program Manager SPARC said that Pakistan is among the 69 countries of the world who are still trying to eradicate corporal punishment in educational institutions.

On 23rd February 2021, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed ‘ICT Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill’ effectively banning all forms of corporal in formal/informal educational institution and child care institutions comprising of rehabilitation centers, foster centers or any other institution. It is a significant milestone in the realization of Pakistan’s commitment to United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child. The key development includes cancellation of Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) that had allowed for physical punishment in case carried out by teacher or guardian in best interest of the child.

He added that the bill has defined the definition of minor and specified the age of child to less than 18. The bill defines corporal punishment various forms of abuse and usage of physical force as corporal punishment which will all be punishable under the law. He highlighted that under the new bill, the children can put forward direct complaint before a court or a magistrate in case of abuse. In case where administrative process does not satisfy the aggrieved party, then, unlike previous laws, there is clear and defined legal course available to the children to attain justice from the courts.

Senior Child Right Activist Syed Safdar Raza said that the use of corporal punishment is deeply rooted in our traditions and social norms, and therefore results in weak or no enforcement of the existing laws. In Pakistan, corporal punishment act as ‘compounding factor’ to 44% of the children between age of 5 and 16 who are out-of-school. It is considered a “normal” part of childhood and is openly recognized as the rights of parents, guardians, teachers, religious instructors, (illegal) employers, or others in charge. Scientific evidence links corporal punishment to mental health problems and behaviors associated with violent tendencies in adulthood. Physical punishment in childhood leads to the depression and anxiety in adulthood risking heightened vulnerability to radicalization.

Amjad Nazeer, Executive Director, Institute of Development Research and Corresponding Capabilities (IDRAC), mentioned that at provincial level, with exception of Sindh, there is dearth of legislation work. This new law is a beacon of hope in realizing the protection of our children from heinous act of corporal punishment. He added that legislation is not the complete solution for eradicating corporal punishment. Teacher training curriculum must include modules that build empathy while educating teachers on the link between corporal punishment and students’ mental health development. Furthermore, the state must provide trainings on alternative disciplinary approaches to equip teachers of formal and religious schools with the necessary skills to replace corporal punishment. Trained teachers can then use platforms like Parent-Teacher Meetings to inform parents of the danger of corporal punishment at homes thus effectively eliminating this practice from society.