WHILE the report in this paper that a Gujranwala man beat his 10-year-old son to death for smoking may be an extreme exception, the fact remains that corporal punishment is common in Pakistan, especially in educational institutions. One survey from 2009 says that corporal punishment was used in 89 per cent of Punjab’s schools. Yet despite the prevalence of corporal punishment in society comprehensive legislation addressing the problem is still lacking. The response of the state to tackling this issue indicates that protecting children from violence and abuse is quite low on the government’s list of priorities. For example, as noted at a recent workshop in Karachi, a draft law has been pending with the Sindh government for close to a year. The only province to have passed significant legislation concerning children’s welfare is Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; the Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan authorities have all issued notifications banning corporal punishment. Yet these efforts have failed to eradicate the cruel practice, mainly because government notifications are not replacements for proper laws. Another issue is addressing corporal punishment in madressahs. As many seminaries are not registered, this puts them outside the purview of government enforcement.
Violence against children cannot be condoned in any form. When youngsters are beaten in school, they not only become alienated from the educational process, they also develop emotional and psychological problems, often repeating the cycle of violence once they enter adulthood. The provinces need to formulate laws that disallow corporal punishment at public and private schools, madressahs and children’s welfare institutions. Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which is seen by many as a loophole allowing for the use of corporal punishment for children under 12, also needs to be re-examined. Passing laws is the first step; the real challenge lies in enforcing them and convincing people that beating children is not ‘good’ for them.