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Phobic Disciplinary Antics Escalating Corporal Punishment In Country

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Corporal punishment

To discipline or not to discipline children through corporal punishment is a dubious topic among researchers, academicians and parents in the present times. You often read stories in newspapers or come across reports on television channels where children are subjected to undue spanking, slapping or even verbal abuse in order to punish them for meagre acts such as failure in completing homework or wearing untidy uniforms to school, or for being naughty and disobedient towards their parents at home. Horrors of violence and abuse against children raise questions of whether these extreme measures can act a catalyst for taming a child’s behaviour or can have serious ramifications on their mental and physical development.

Corporal punishment can be defined as the use of force intended to cause a certain degree of injury, harm or discomfort to minors or children such as slapping, smacking or spanking with hand.  Corporal punishment can also include non-physical forms of violence such as threatening, ridiculing, humiliating or belittling children for their actions or behaviour.

Corporal punishment in Pakistan- a moment of truth

Nowadays corporal punishment is seen as a viable means of disciplining children in households and educational institutes. Numerous cases of corporal punishment have been reported on the hands of teachers and principals in leading government and private institutes of the country. For instance a similar case was reported in 2016 when a mentally handicapped girl, studying at the Hassan Tayyab Academy Karachi was slapped by her principal in the presence of her teachers and peers. Video of this incident surfaced on the social media and created a whirlpool in the education department, leading to an immediate action against the administration of the academy. However, not all acts are reported and not all perpetrators pay the price of their horrendous acts against minors.

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According to a study conducted by Society for Advancement of Education in partnership with Alif Alaan, almost 73 percent of teachers support corporal punishment as an effective means for disciplining children. Moreover they approved some degree of punishment like lighter degrees of thrashing and milder forms of physical punishment vital for disciplining children and teaching them effectively at schools.

Legal status of corporal punishment- In Pakistan and the rest of the world

Corporal punishment is one of the major reasons of early school dropouts in the world, particularly in Pakistan where almost 22.6 million children are out of school due to inhumane treatment by their teachers. Corporal punishment is illegal in almost 33 countries of the world including Sweden, Germany, Brazil, Austria, Canada, and Australia that have banned almost all types of punishments against children.

The National Assembly of Pakistan passed a bill in the year 2013 which prohibited the use of corporal punishment in schools and madrassas. However many schools and religious institutes still dish out these violent practises due to widespread cultural acceptance in the country.

Recently, a bill has been proposed on the eradication of corporal punishment against children; taking into account the absence of laws to protect minor against domestic child labour. The bill proposes a punishment of six months in imprisonment, or with a fine of 50,000 or even both; to the perpetrators of violence against minors. Moreover, Pakistan is also one of the signatories of the United Nation’s Human Rights Convention which prohibits this horrid practice.

Why Corporal Punishment can ruin your child’s future.

The impact of corporal punishment depends on how frequently it is used by parents at homes and teachers in school, what techniques are used to administer fear in the minds of children, and how much emotionally aroused they are while using force against children.

An extensive research study by psychologist Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff of the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University found a strong association between parent-inflicted corporal punishment and 11 childhood experiences and behavioural changes including quality of relationship with parents, internalization, immediate compliance with directives, aggression, anti-social behaviour and abuse against their own children and spouse.

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According to a study published in 2009 in the Journal of Aggression Maltreatment and Trauma, spanking reduces IQ levels of children, producing fear and stress which also hinders their brain development and growth.

Numerous studies also highlight the negative impact of corporal punishment on children, where the ones who were spanked were more likely to hit others. Studies also indicate that spanking misses its impact over a period of time and loses its significance as a deterrent to disobedient acts.

The element of domesticity and how parents’ role comes into play

The element of domesticity and the role of parents in the personal, as well as professional training and grooming of children is vital. Majority of parents in our country believe that to control and discipline children, a little beating is required. Family is a basic unit of society, the one that is responsible for the rearing as well as the physical and mental wellbeing of children. Physical punishment by parents can risk a child’s development and can expose them to behavioural and psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, fear, stress, anti-social behaviour, aggression, safety and trust issues. Parents believe that disempowering them from controlling the lives of their children can ultimately destroy the family life and hence they believe that a little spanking and abusing causes no harm.

According to a survey by the International Centre for Research on Women and Plan International which was conducted in 2014 on children age between 12-17 years, no action was taken by parents when their children informed them about their teacher’s abusive behaviour towards them.  Another study conducted by Plan Pakistan in 2013 found almost 41 percent of adults and parents completely favoured, while 31 percent partially favoured punishing children.

For the majority of parents in Pakistan, corporal punishment is a personal issue. They are defensive towards the use of force and reject the potentially harmful effects of physical punishment on children which is further accelerating corporal punishment at homes and schools.

A little spanking needed to discipline children

The issue of corporal punishment has been challenged by pressure groups and educators, with some believing that a little spanking won’t harm or injure the child. They negate the claims that corporal punishment is a form of violence against children and believe that a little spanking will help in keeping the child disciplined.

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Proponents favouring corporal punishment assert how parents and teachers have the freedom to beat their children and even pass verbal hurls and insults, in order to train and discipline them. They claim it is impossible to negotiate or reason with a three-year-old to not indulge in activities or behaviours that can possibly put their life at risk. They believe children are vulnerable and lack the mental capacity to understand the intricacy of matter at hand and hence a little spanking is essential to discipline young minds.

To sum up

The measures implemented by the government and the bills proposed in the National Assembly would be ineffective till the time parents and teachers realize the negative implications of corporal punishment on children. The need of the hour is to educate and train parents and teachers about how physical punishments and verbal abusing at homes and schools can crumble both the present and future aspirations of children, instigating a vicious cycle of never-ending violence, where the one abused on the hands of parents and teachers will resort to the same violent measures once they grow-up. We need to desist from corporal punishment or we will have a generation that would resort to similar extreme antics; just as of their parents and teachers, in order to discipline their children.

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