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Legislation, children & corporal punishment

March 11, 2013

THIS is with reference to the news reports (March 1) wherein Sindh Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution to repeal section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code that allows schoolchildren under 12 years of age to be punished for misbehaviour.

Pakistan was the first among the 20 countries that ratified UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The UNCRC underlines the fundamental principle for maintaining discipline in schools.

According to Article 28, “State parties shall take all appropriate measure to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.” Article 37 of the Convention requires state to ensure that “no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

While this is complemented and extended by Article 19, which requires the state to “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measure to protect the child from all kind of physical or mental violence, injury, or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of the child.”

There is no ambiguity and “all forms of physical or mental violence,” does not leave room for any level of legalised violence against children. In Pakistan, the steps taken so far by state with regard to addressing corporal punishment have been limited to notifications to schools banning corporal punishment.

These notifications have not had the desired results due to number of reasons. Not all teachers are aware of these notifications and enforcement is difficult.

Under section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code, nothing done in good faith for the benefit of a person less than 12 years of age, by a guardian or person having lawful charge is an offence, except for the intentional causing of death or grievous hurt or attempting to cause death or grievous hurt.

In practice, however, the concept of ‘moderate’ or ‘reasonable’ punishment is blurred. As corporal punishment deprives a child of the right to life, the right to physical and mental integration, the right to education, the right to development and is not in the best interest of the child.

Therefore, keeping in view that Pakistan is the signatory of UNCRC corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment or violence are prohibited and state must take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to eliminate them.