LAHORE: Child rights activists gathered at the press club on Friday demanding yet again the elimination of corporal punishment through legislation.

Speaking about the trauma aspect of such incidents, mental health expert Dr Aliya Aftab said that hitting children was a dangerous practice, ending up with the victims receiving serious physical and psychological injuries, and sometimes even death.

“Research sees corporal punishment as a significant factor in the development of violent attitudes and actions, both in childhood and adulthood,” she explained. “Experiencing and facing violence inhibits positive child development and constructive discipline. Promoting positive, non-violent forms of discipline empowers parents and reduces family stress.”

Members of a non-governmental organisation working on child protection demanded the federal and provincial governments enact and implement exclusive laws to prohibit corporal punishment to protect the dignity and self-respect of children.

Iftikhar Mubarik, executive director of Search for Justice, shared that Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) requires states to protect children from “all forms of physical and mental violence”. In its concluding observations to Pakistan, specifically, UNCRC has recommended the eradication and prohibition of all forms of corporal punishment.

The Universal Periodic Review committee also recommended that Pakistan implement awareness-raising campaigns on the harmful impact of corporal punishment with a view to changing the prevailing attitude towards this practice and in order to promote positive, non-violent and participatory forms of child-rearing and discipline.

In addition to legislative actions there must be a mandatory teacher training programme at departmental level to uplift their capacities on understanding positive disciplining by using alternative tools and techniques to corporal punishment.

Tanveer Jahan, executive director of Democratic Commission for Human Development, said that alongside the ending of corporal punishment mandatory teachers’ training on maintaining positive discipline was very important. Teachers must learn to adopt alternative skills to corporal punishment and understand that positive criticism was integral.

Fourteen-year-old student and child activist Sameer Haider condemned the recent incident where a student was beaten to death by his teacher. “A big reason why children drop out of schools is the beating by schoolteachers,” he said. “We need to be in a place where we feel safe, and the government must see to it that we receive our education without fear.”

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2019

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