THOUGH the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, 2010, had been in the works for a while, it is welcome that the private bill was finally passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday. The provisions outlaw corporal punishment in public and private educational institutions as well as in childcare institutions. It is unfortunate that violence against children is rife across the country. While the media often reports extreme cases — such as when parents or teachers cause grievous bodily harm to children who sometimes sustain injuries that prove fatal — mental and physical hurt of relatively lesser proportions meted out to children goes largely unreported. Hence it is important to ensure that the law also addresses non-physical punishment. For many youngsters, physical violence is an unfortunate part of life in school, at the madressah and at home. There is widespread acceptance in Pakistani society of this practice. While all four provinces have taken administrative steps to ban corporal punishment at school, implementation has been lacking. It is generally observed that lack of implementation is the central issue, along with society’s changing attitude towards violent punishments. As a first step, teachers need to be trained and sensitised about other, more humane ways of instilling discipline into children without resorting to tactics of violence or humiliation.
The law does not clearly address corporal punishment within the home. Perhaps when the cruel practice is eliminated from schools work can begin on addressing the more sensitive matter of physical violence at home. Due to the prevalence of corporal punishment in society an incremental approach is required to eradicate it. Nevertheless, the goal must be nothing less than eradication, for when children are exposed to violence at home and at school, they end up becoming violent adults themselves, thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse.