KARACHI: While discussing child rights, impact of abusive environment on child development and gaps in the legal framework that fail to curb violence against children, speakers at a workshop have demanded legislation in all the provinces that supersedes Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code and bans corporal punishment in all settings.
The legislation for child protection, they said, was mandatory under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child that Pakistan ratified more than two decades ago.
The consultation workshop on developing school-based mechanism to address corporal punishment was held at a hotel on Tuesday.
The participants in the workshop demanded that the draft law on corporal punishment, pending with the Sindh government for almost a year, be enacted without further delay.
“Poverty of will is, perhaps, what restrains the government when it comes to enacting laws related to women and children,” said Iqbal Detho, representing Society for the Protection of the Rights of Child (Sparc) at the workshop.
Mr Detho’s criticism was with reference to the government’s slow progress on the draft bills related to child marriages, corporal punishment, child protection authority rules, compulsory education and domestic violence. The draft bills, according to him, had been pending with the government for a long time.
Since the devolution of power to the provinces, the Sindh government had not legislated on any issue related to women and children, he observed, adding that the draft law pending with the government prohibited corporal punishment in all settings with main focus on educational institutions.
While discussing the practice of corporal punishment at educational institutions, it was pointed out that after a recent increase in salaries of government schoolteachers they didn’t have any excuse not to invest in self-improvement.
Section 89 of PPC
Section 89 (Act done in good faith for benefit of child or insane person, by or by consent of guardian) says: “Nothing which is done in good faith for the benefit of a person under twelve years of age, or of unsound mind, by or by consent, either express or implied, of the guardian or other person having lawful charge of that person, is an offence by reason of any harm which it may cause, or be intended by the doer to cause or be known by the doer to be likely to cause to that person.” There are certain conditions with this section — firstly that this exception shall not extend to the intentional causing of death, or to the attempting to cause death; secondly that this exception shall not extend to the doing of anything which the person doing it knows to be likely to cause death, for any purpose other than the preventing of death or grievous hurt; or the curing of any grievous disease or infirmity; thirdly that this exception shall not extend to the voluntary causing of grievous hurt, or to the attempting to cause grievous hurt, unless it be for the purpose of preventing death or grievous hurt, or the curing of any grievous disease or infirmity; and fourthly that this exception shall not extend to the abetment of any offence, to the committing of which offence it would not extend.
Child protection law
Mr Detho appreciated the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for being the only provincial government in the country to have introduced a comprehensive law on child welfare and protection. The law addresses many sensitive issues related to children, including early marriages and sexual abuse, according to him. However, there was a major flaw in the child protection law passed by the KP government, argued Mohammad Imtiaz Ahmed, National Programme Manager, Violence against Children, Sparc. He explained that the law allowed corporal punishment instead of prohibiting it in all forms.
“The law says that corporal punishment is prohibited as stated in Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860. This particular section empowers parents, teachers and other guardians to use corporal punishment as a means to discipline and correct the behavior of children under 12, though the punishment is required to be moderate and reasonable.
“In case the punishment inflicts serious injuries as defined in section 319 (hurt) and 320 (grievous hurt) of the PPC, then the adult can be booked under section 323 and 325 of the PPC respectively and can be penalised and imprisoned for it,” Mr Ahmed explained.
A committee on child rights, he said, had twice recommended the government in 2003 and 2009 to repeal Section 89 of the PPC. Words such as ‘good faith’ could easily be misused, he argued.
Informing the audience about the situation in other provinces, he said that Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan had notifications banning corporal punishment. He said Sindh had the Sindh Education Code, 1986 that prohibited corporal punishment and then a notification came in 2006 directing private institutions to ensure that ‘no corporal punishment in any form is inflicted on students’.
Sharing findings of a survey on corporal punishment at schools in 2010, Mr Imtiaz said that all schools in Khyber Pakhunkhwa reported incidents of corporal punishment though a high number of teachers were found to believe in moderate forms of corporal punishment. In Punjab, corporal punishment incidents were reported in 89pc schools, according to another survey conducted in 2009.
‘260 complaints in 4 years
Mohammad Ali Shah, who works as a manager at the children complaint cell at the provincial ombudsman office, said the fact that only 260 complaints had been received since the cell’s establishment in 2009 showed that many cases of child abuse had never been reported.
In reply to a question, he said that though the ombudsman office also took suo motu notice on media reports, a greater use of this power could reduce its efficacy.
Representing the Sindh Education Foundation, Ali Usman underlined the need for teachers’ training so that they better understand children mind, their potential and various learning disabilities they may suffer from. “For teachers, it is important to know that there are about 150 learning disabilities. Learning potential and student approach can also differ on account of gender disparity,” he said.
While referring to a research study, Mr Usman said it was found that children who suffered mental and physical torture had low self-esteem, confidence and intelligence level and were more prone to become abusive as an adult.