Not just the law, we need social change to end corporal punishment

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Corporal punishment is defined as any punishment in which physical force is used with the intention of causing some degree of pain or discomfort, however slight. Degrading and humiliating punishments also fall under this definition. Corporal punishment violates not only children’s right to be free from violence, but also their rights to health, development and education.

In November 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) published “Corporal Punishment and Health”, where it called for an end to this practice worldwide. The WHO factsheet pointed out that a large body of research has linked corporal punishment to a wide range of negative outcomes, both immediate and long-term. Some of these are “direct physical harm, sometimes resulting in severe harm, long-term disability, or death; poor mental health, including behavioral and anxiety disorders, depression, hopelessness, low self-esteem, self-harm and suicide attempts, alcohol and drug addiction, hostility and emotional instability, which continue into adulthood.” Impaired cognitive and socio-emotional development; damage to education, including school dropout and reduced academic and professional achievement; increased antisocial behavior; increased aggression in children; perpetration by adults of violent, antisocial and criminal behaviour; indirect physical harm, including the development of cancer, alcohol-related problems, migraine, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and obesity that persist into adulthood; and damaged family relationships are also among the results, according to the WHO.

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Even though we know that corporal punishment is so harmful to children, it is still practiced around the world. Only 63 countries have enacted laws prohibiting corporal punishment of children in all settings: homes, schools, workplaces, institutions, alternative care arrangements, etc. 87% of children worldwide are not protected from corporal punishment by law; this also includes Bangladeshi children.

Today, 13 January, marks the 11th anniversary of the High Court’s ban on corporal punishment in educational institutions, including schools and madrasas, in Bangladesh. The Ministry of Education has also issued a circular and guidelines prohibiting corporal punishment in educational establishments. Yet, corporal punishment is still pervasive in schools and madrasas due to the low control and our general acceptance of this practice. Not just in educational institutions, but children are also subjected to corporal punishment at home, in institutions and in workplaces. According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019, conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF, 89% of children (1-14 years old) in Bangladesh experienced disciplinary violence in the last month of the school year. ‘investigation. Meanwhile, 35% of parents or guardians said corporal punishment was necessary to discipline children.

Corporal punishment makes children sad, scared, ashamed and guilty. When children are punished by parents, caregivers and teachers – the people they love most and trust most – they also learn to accept violence in personal relationships and may become perpetrators or victims of violence. violence later in adulthood.

In Bangladesh, people have many excuses for corporal punishment. For example, some say that many parents raise their children in difficult conditions and that teachers are often stressed by overcrowding and lack of resources, so they often use corporal punishment. We never justify hitting an adult even when we are frustrated. Why should this be acceptable in the case of children? In many homes and institutions, adults may face difficulties, but taking out their frustration on children by hitting and humiliating them is never acceptable.

Despite popular belief, corporal punishment is ineffective as a technique for teaching and disciplining children. In the face of punishment, children may comply in the short term with instructions given by their parents or teachers, without understanding why something should be done or avoided. Instead of punishing, parents should give their children age-appropriate guidance with care and love, which will help children in their learning and development. Teachers need to apply positive discipline techniques to get their students to listen.

Corporal punishment can be prevented through multi-sectoral approaches, which include law reform, changing harmful norms around child-rearing and discipline, supporting parents and caregivers, and more. . This was the case in Sweden, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Poland and Romania.

Ending corporal punishment is a human rights imperative and essential if the world is to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.2 to end all violence against children by 2030. Prohibiting and eliminating corporal punishment is also an effective and inexpensive means of public health. extent, as it contributes to the prevention of domestic violence and mental illness, and supports the education and developmental outcomes of children.

The prohibition of corporal punishment in educational establishments shall be implemented in the following manner: 1) All teachers, parents, community members and students shall be informed that corporal punishment is prohibited in educational establishments. teaching; 2) Teachers’ code of conduct should clearly state that they cannot use corporal punishment against students. Disciplinary measures must be taken against teachers who do so; 3) The school inspection checklist should include compliance with the prohibition of corporal punishment; and 4) School management committees should discuss and address issues related to corporal punishment at their meetings. This issue should also be on the regular agenda of coordination meetings of education officials and headteachers at district and upazila levels to assess situations and take action accordingly.

To end corporal punishment in all settings in Bangladesh, the following should be done: 1) A new law should be enacted prohibiting corporal punishment of children in all settings; 2) Law reform should be linked to overall awareness raising and capacity building on positive and non-violent forms of parenting and teaching methods. The media can play an important role in changing social norms so that parents, teachers and all adults treat children with respect and dignity; 3) Positive discipline messages should be incorporated into the training of all who work with or for children and families, as well as in health, education and social services.

Laila Khondkar is an international development worker.

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