WASHINGTON: The United States has commended the Pakistani parliament for passing a bill that forbids corporal punishment in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

“We commend Pakistan’s National Assembly for passing a bill to ban corporal punishment in Islamabad and establish penalties against those who harm children,” said the US State Department in a tweet released on Friday evening.

“This encouraging step to protect human rights of the most vulnerable reflects the work of government, courts and civil society,” the tweet added.

Last week, Pakistan passed a bill banning corporal punishment for children in a move described as “historic” by rights activists.

The legislation followed several high-profile cases of schoolchildren being savagely beaten and even killed in schools, madressahs and workplaces.

The ICT Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill effectively bans all forms of corporal punishment “however light” at the workplace, in all types of educational institutions, including formal, informal, and religious — both public and private — in childcare institutions, including foster care, rehabilitation centres and any other alternative care settings.

The ban only applies to institutions in Islamabad, but campaigners hope the rest of the country will follow soon.

Last month, an eight-year-old boy was beaten to death by his teacher for not memorising a lesson in a madressah in Punjab. In June 2020, an eight-year-old girl, working as a maid in Islamabad, was beaten to death by her employers for letting their pet parrots escape.

Pakistan is among 16 states where corporal punishment is not fully prohibited. The list includes several Muslim states, such as Brunei, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

According to the End All Corporal Punishment of Children global campaign, only 13 per cent of the world’s children are fully protected in law from this cruelty.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2021

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