Corporal punishment is the most common form of violence against children worldwide. It includes any punishment in which physical force is used and is intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light, as well as non-physical forms of punishment that are cruel and degrading.
I have associated with Legal Rights Forum’s (https://lrfpk.org/) Child Rights and Protection Program; one of its campaign deals with “reducing Corporal/Physical and Humiliation Punishment of children”. Through research and physical conversation with communities, I have learnt that the corporal punishment, together with other forms of discipline that involve verbal abuse, is still a regular part of the school experience for many children in Pakistan. The use of this method and tolerance towards it persist due to a belief that corporal punishment is an effective way of educating children.
Corporal punishment, a form of violence against children, is always a breach of children’s human rights. Its widespread social acceptance means that a level of violence in childrearing is normalized, entrenching children’s low status in society and paving the way for other forms of violence and mistreatment. It is associated with a wide range of short and long-term negative impacts, both for the individual and society as a whole.
We said it and say it time and time again that corporal punishment does not work. It does not work for a lot of reasons. One is that it produces a weariness of a child. They do not really learn. They become vigilant; all the time seeing around to know: is anybody watching me, is anybody see what I am doing, can I get away with this. Corporal punishment does not really teach them any kind of internal moral standards or any internal control. It also deprives the child the experience of pleasure. When you are inflicting pain, there is a biological response to pain that is negating the biological response of experiencing pleasure. And when the body is responding to pain and it is in its fight-or-flight state, it is not in a mode to learn. Learning requires a different physiological response than responding to pain. So, it really shuts the body down from learning when you inflict pain on a child. It does not open the body up to learning physiologically. It is counterproductive whether you look at it sociologically, psychologically or biologically. Inflicting pain in a child does not open them up to a positive learning experience.
There is a common belief among parents and teachers that corporal punishment is an effective way stop aversive behavior of child. If you hit them hard enough and you hurt them or you surprise them or shock them, they will stop the obverse of behavior. Over the long haul, however, it does not work because children will have to go back and do it again. It cannot be correlated with when you restrict child to eat something in the refrigerator. If you gave child a horribly tasting thing out of your refrigerator and due to incredibly aversive, child would be unlikely to want anything out of your refrigerator again. So, the aversive taste would be effective in this particular case. But the aversive effect of corporal punishment is not very long-lasting because kids will go back and do the same things again. They may not touch the refrigerator again but they will definitely go back and misbehave again. So, it is very clear that in the long run, corporal punishment does not work to change behavior of child.
In school system in Pakistan, the use corporal punishment is common practice to discipline a child. Corporal punishment and physical abuse, a widely accepted practice in Pakistani schools, have discouraged many students from going to schools. Pakistani authorities must work to end corporal punishment in schools.
LRF is organizing a National Campaign on Ending Violence Against Children in Pakistan to commemorate International Day to End Corporal Punishment of Children on 30th April, 2021. Shamim Mumtaz, MPA & Chairperson Sindh Child Protection Authority, has launched the Campaign through issuing a video message. She applauded the LRF’s vision on child Positive Disciplining techniques. She said that Corporal Punishment is a non-sense that still continues in schools and at homes in the country because of a wrong perception that corporal punishment is an effective way of educating children. She promised to ensure that the Rules of Businesses (ROBs) of the Sindh Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Act, 2016 are presented by the Ministry of Education in the cabinet as well as in Sindh Parliament as soon as possible. She appealed Minister for Education-Sindh to issue a circular to all schools and madrasas in Sindh to stop physical and humiliating punishment and discipline children gently with affection. According to her, education is also a kind of worship that involves child’s education, character building and building their future career and hence it should be done in a peaceful way and in a loving environment.
Malik Tahir Iqbal is a human rights advocate, researcher, writer and development practitioner.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org