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Corporal Punishment: An Inhuman Act In Our Classrooms

TW: Mentions of physical violence

April 30 is declared as International Day to abolish corporal punishment by the Global Initiative to End corporal punishment. In March this year, Madras High Court had to free a criminal teacher of child death due to corporal punishment because of the lack of any comprehensive law on corporal punishment. It is shameful for us that such inhuman, barbarian, cruel, uncivilized, undemocratic, feudal, and criminal activities are practiced in temples of education.

Representational Image

There are several legal safeguards around corporal punishment in schools that are not followed in India.

At present instances of corporal punishment are dealt with in section 323 or 324 of the Indian Penal Code which doesn’t make a distinction between adults and children and doesn’t provide adequate safeguards to children. . We need a comprehensive child-sensitive law on Corporal punishment.  India has ratified the 1989 UN Convention of Child Rights which abolished corporal punishment.  Article 28(2) of UN CRC requires the State parties to “take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and conformity with the present Convention.

What Is The Legal Precedent?

Similarly, Article 29(1) (b) of the Convention emphasizes that the “State parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations”.

Further, Article 37(a) of UN CRC requires States Parties to ensure that “no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

This is complemented by Article 19(1) of the Convention, which requires States to– “Take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment,  maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.” Article 19(2) lays down that– “Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment  of social programs to provide the necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and identification, reporting,  referral,  investigation, treatment, and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.

In 2000, Delhi High Court abolished corporal punishment in Parents Forum for Meaningful Education vs Delhi Education Department case. Juvenile Justice Act 2000 also abolished corporal punishment. In 2009, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights issued guidelines abolishing Corporal Punishment. But there is no single awareness video on the official YouTube Channel of NCPCR on this. In 2009, the Right to Education Act also abolished Corporal punishment.

A bill abolishing corporal punishment was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2011 but couldn’t pass. In the annual State of Education report, there is no indicator of child abuse, corporal punishment. In rural areas, teachers consider themselves above law, guidelines, the judgment of the court, and the constitution of the country and justify committing violence and criminal acts. It makes school a kind of jail, teachers as a jailer, students as criminal. They consider it as their right to abuse children for scoring fewer marks or not remaining in the discipline.

If a child learns violence is legitimate from childhood then we see a kind of violent society where abuse, violence are considered legitimate. School should be a place where children should learn the constitutional values, respect for the law of the state but if the education system is such where their teachers are committing a crime, violence then it’s an alarming situation for our society.  It is a way to enforce the route and fact-based learning by the threat of corporal punishment. It impacts their mental, psychological well-being and impeds their growth. It takes away the joy of learning and childhood from them. It hampers the dignity of children.  But they fail to understand that discipline is not taught, it is learned. Textbooks give information.

Communication through teaching is imparting education. To attain wisdom, an abundant amount of common sense has to be added to education, which then includes discipline. Discipline is an attitude, character, responsibility, or commitment. The discipline is basically internal, while they attempt to impose it would be an external process. One has to internalize the process of education and discipline. Discipline and education go together in letter and spirit. For getting children in discipline, positive discipline,  democratic nonviolent methods with care, love should be adopted. Our father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi was a strong supporter of nonviolence so if we want a country free from any kind of violence then it has to start from school. It also violates the Right to practice religions like Buddhism and Jainism where any kind of violence is strictly prohibited.

India’s Obligation And Need To Do Better

India being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Rights of Child is under an obligation to remove cruelty towards children by prohibiting the use of canes as a method of punishment from schools. It is an important element of a Child’s protection rights as envisaged by the Convention to lay down national policy and legislation on the use of corporal punishment in schools. There should neither be physical nor mental punishment. The stress and strain are imposed on the child with the atmosphere of fear prevalent in the schools because of corporal punishments, cutthroat competitions, and increasing pressure for good ranks which also lead them to leave the schools. Suicides are another major possible consequence of such terrible incidents in schools.

The plight of junior college students, who died of suicide due to meaningless competition and ambitious craze for professional courses is lowering the morale of other students and their parents. School children should not be driven to such an unfortunate situation. We shall not wait till more school students die of suicide. It is high time for us to act upon. Let us all save their childhood. ‘Spare the rod and save the childhood‘ should be the new slogan.

Any kind of fear of punishment results in suppression of creativity and peaceful learning. It violates Article 21 which guarantees a life with dignity, free from fear, harassment, threat, abuse, violence, torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment, and misbehavior. To protect child rights we really need this bill to be passed because instances of corporal punishment can be still found in rural areas. New Education Policy 2020 doesn’t have any reference to corporal punishment. So to protect child rights, corporal punishment should be made an integral part of the new Curriculum and introduce an awareness chapter in the syllabus. Prime Minister should talk about this in his Pariksha  Pe Charcha. Child Helpline should continuously visit schools and interact with children and provide them protection from Corporal punishment.

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