ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill to ban corporal punishment in educational institutions and seminaries in the capital and referred another bill seeking to make compulsory the teaching of Arabic language in educational institutions to the standing committee concerned.
The ICT Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill calls for banning all forms of corporal punishment in educational institutions, including formal, non-formal and seminaries, in both the public and private sectors as well as childcare institutions and rehabilitation centres.
Defining punishment, the bill stated: “Any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light it may be, which may involve hitting (smacking, slapping, spanking) a child with the hand or with an implement (a whip, stick, belt, shoe, wooden spoon, etc.”
It said kicking, shaking or throwing a child, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair or boxing ears were also corporal and physical punishment.
Another bill to make teaching of Arabic language compulsory in educational institutions referred to standing committee
The bill said forcing a child to stay in uncomfortable positions, burning, scalding or forced ingestion, for example, washing a child’s mouth out with soap or forcing him to swallow hot species, including mental abuse were also a punishment.
According to the bill, experts have consensus that physical punishment can have adverse consequences on the child’s health, particularly their behaviour and emotional wellbeing.
“One of the reasons attributed to higher drop-out rates in schools and low learning outcomes of students is physical punishment and castigation of pupils by the teachers.”
Teachers will be penalised for assault and hurt inflicted upon children regardless of intention, the bill stated, canceling out the provisions of Section 89 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) which allowed teachers and guardians to administer physical punishment “in good faith” and “for the benefit” of the child.
The bill was moved by PML-N MNA Mehnaz Akbar Aziz while singer Shehzad Roy also advocated for the passage of the bill.
Shehzad Roy on Feb 19 also called on Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser and after the meeting the speaker in a statement had said he fully supported legislation to ban corporal punishment.
In 2019, the bill had been passed by the standing committee on education but it could not make progress as discussion on it was withheld for 15 months after which it was referred to and remained stuck with another committee.
During the session of the house, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari presented an amendment under which complaints put forward by children would be brought before a court or a magistrate.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly referred to the committee concerned another bill moved by MNA Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, which sought making the teaching of Arabic language compulsory in all educational institutions in the federal capital. The bill was recently passed by the Senate.
According to the bill, Arabic language should be taught from class I to V and grammar from VI to XII.
However, Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood told the house that he supported the spirit of the bill but there were two types of Arabic: the classic Arabic which is being used for reading Quran and modern Arabic.
He said the government had already made Nazira as mandatory from class 1 to 8.
On this, Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri referred the bill to the committee for further deliberation.
During discussion on the bill in the Senate, fiery speeches were made by members following opposition by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani.
The ‘Compulsory Teaching of Arabic Language Bill 2020’ had been introduced as a private member’s bill in the Senate by Javed Abbasi of the PML-N in August last year.
The house passed the bill unanimously after a majority of the treasury and opposition members spoke in support of it. They said the step would enable the young generation understand the holy Quran and Islam in a better way.
The law will be applicable to “the students in all educational institutions of Islamabad Capital Territory, including those affiliated with the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE), and public sector institutions owned and controlled by the federal government wherever they may be.”
Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2021