International day to end corporal punishment
THE use of “force”, apparently to “discipline” and “improve” the children, is so deeply rooted in our traditions and social norms, that the reporting of cases and action against culprits is practically none.
Corporal punishment is daily happening for many children and it is widely accepted as the inherent right of parents, teachers, religious tutors, (unlawful) employers and those in charge.
Empirical evidence indicates mental health problems and violent tendencies in adulthood as a consequence of corporal punishment faced in childhood.
In Pakistan, corporal punishment acts as ‘compounding factor’ to 44% of the children between age of 5 and 16 who are out-of-school.
Corporal Punishment has been globally recognized as a serious threat to the dignity and wellbeing of children.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child Article 19 and 37, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal: 16.2 ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’, Goal 3: ‘Good Health and Well-being’, and Goal 4: ‘Quality Education’, all aim at eradicating corporal punishment from society.
Being a signatory to these international agreements, Pakistan is bound to ensure protection of children.
However in reality, Pakistan is still among the countries struggling to eradicate corporal punishment in educational institutions.
Some Pakistani laws such as Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) Section 89, The Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act (2004, Section 35) and The KP Child Protection and Welfare Act (2010, Section 44) allow corporal punishment in some form.
This creates hurdles for law makers to exercise improved laws such as The Sindh Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Act (2016), Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2012), The Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2013, Section 13-3), Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act (2014) and The Gilgit-Baltistan Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Act (2015).
It took Sindh province almost 5 years to pass rules of business of Sindh Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Act (2016).
This delay has caused thousands of children to suffer. On 23 February 2021, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed ‘ICT Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill’ outlawing all forms of corporal punishment in formal and informal educational institutions, rehabilitation centers, foster homes and other child institutions.
This law cancelled Section PPC Section 89which allowed teachers and guardians to inflict physical punishment in the name of ‘so-called’ best interest of the child.
This legislation has also increased the age of childhood to 18 years to meet UNCRC requirements.
For the first time, children have been given the facility to directly complain to a court or a magistrate in case of any grievance.
On December 27, 2021, the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) instructed 423 Federal educational institutions to ensure implementation of the new law.
In case of violation, educational institutions will face minor penalties which include halt raise in rank or remuneration or major penalties which include downgrading, enforced retirement, and termination from service.
FDE also instructed all institutions to set up complaint mechanisms for children. There is still a dire need to bring all laws in harmony for effectively eliminating corporal punishment throughout the country.
Using the law in Gilgit-Baltistan as role model, corporal punishment should be banned at homes as well.
In addition, improved institutional mechanisms and inadequate resource allocation is also required.
Other recommendations given by experts repeatedly are extensive training for teachers of formal and religious schools, improved curriculum, strengthened School Management Committees (SMCs), and cross sectoral partnerships, for effectively eliminating this practice from society.
—The writer is Programme Manager, Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, SPARC, Islamabad.