Corporal punishment

15 Feb, 2020

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ON Thursday, the Islamabad High Court suspended Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code, a provision that allowed for the use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary tool on children by parents, teachers and other guardian figures. The high court issued a reminder that the use of violence against children went against the values of inviolability and dignity as enshrined in the Constitution, and was also contradictory to the many international treaties Pakistan is signatory to, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits all forms of corporal punishment. Article 19 (1) of the convention clearly states that member nations must “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child....”

And yet, corporal punishment continues to be culturally accepted in large sections of our society that justify its use as being ‘good for the child’ and will benefit them in the long run by instilling discipline and making them ‘well-adjusted’ members of society. People tend to resort to violence when they lack the vocabulary and reasoning skills to settle conflict, and many parents may resent being told how to raise their children — which may indeed come from a well-intentioned place. However, scientific research on such forms of punishment for children actually differs from the age-old myths about disciplinary action that are passed down the generations and accepted without question. Instead of raising healthy human beings, the vast majority of research on the topic finds instances of greater aggression, antisocial behaviour and mental health issues in children raised in households that practise corporal punishment, where they internalise feeling of mistrust, fear and humiliation at a vulnerable age. It is time to break free from the cycle of abuse.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2020