“Children do not lose their human rights by virtue of passing through the school gates. Education must be provided in a way that respects the inherent dignity of the child, that respects the strict limits on discipline and promotes non-violence in school.” — UN Committee on Child Rights.
Corporal punishment — harassment in the form of beating, caning, thrashing or even whipping which impairs a student physically and psychologically for his/her entire life — is quite prevalent as reported in various newspapers in recent days. The stories that have been in print consist of the most acute conditions of all. Corporal punishment of children occurs in all societies. It takes place in many settings including homes, in schools and on the streets. In some countries children and young people can still be legally whipped or beaten as punishment for an offence.
Having recognized the extent to which children experience corporal punishment, the next question to be raised is about the effect it has on children’s physical and psychological health. Indeed, corporal punishment is consistently associated with numerous negative outcomes for children. There are both short and long term effects of corporal and psychological punishment on children. Corporal punishment can lead to physical damage and many negative outcomes in social behavior including poorer relationships, behavior problems, aggression and lack of acceptance by peers, felony and delinquency. Many studies have produced evidences that link physical punishment and later violent or illegal manners as well as the extent to which children are hit and their intellectual growth.
Prohibiting corporal punishment by law is a vital measure which recognizes a child’s rights to respect for human dignity and physical integrity and to equal protection under the law. Law reform provides a clear basis for child protection. It makes it clear to all people working with and caring for children, including child and family organizations, education providers, teachers and employers, that hitting a child is no more lawful or acceptable than hitting anyone else. Law reform should be accompanied by public education to raise awareness of children’s rights and to provide information for parents, teachers and others about positive, non-violent forms of discipline.
Abolishing corporal punishment involves setting up a legal framework which clearly prohibits corporal punishment and protects children from all kinds of assault including assault in the family setting. No country can declare that it has prohibited corporal punishment in all alleys until it has passed a legislation which does this. Although governments have a primary promise to protect children, all adults have a responsibility to end violence against children. In order to make a difference to children’s daily lives, that legislation must be escorted by realization and prevention policies, including public education on positive non-violent discipline.
Rights can easily be endowed on black and white; but they will be absorbed in the consciousness of individual decorum only if social action is taken. Hence, children’s rights require: instrumental laws, social, economic and legal policies, services and cultural behavior to score sensible significance for children.