Time to say ‘NO’ to corporal punishment | Sunday Observer

Time to say ‘NO’ to corporal punishment

It is time to say NO and to say it firmly. As Sri Lankan children look forward to their ‘day’ the first of October, ‘Children’s Day’ in our country, End Corporal Punishment – Vision 2020 (ECP-2020) walks for ‘Real Change’ to ban corporal punishment. The walk will start from Independence Square at 3 p.m. today, September 30, 2018 and deliver a petition signed by concerned citizens and the ‘Pentagon Proposal’ with five overarching key components, referring to the responsible main arms of the government essential to end corporal punishment, to the President.

The increase of violence seen in Sri Lankan society generates from violence meted out to children, say experts. Violence begets violence. It is a cyclical process passing on from one generation to the next, usually with greater intensity.

Many voices were heard from a strong platform, as professionals teamed up in support of ECP-2020, early last week.

“The seed of punishment to me only gives rise to fruits of resentment, discontent, hate, and all the other bad qualities that can be fermented in our minds. This fermentation is what then comes out (as an adult),” said Sidath Wettimuny one of the patrons of the campaign. He recalled how he was slapped twice as a young boy and how he had been brooding over the event over many years. “To date I don’t know why I was slapped,” Wettimuni commented explaining as he was thinking of the reasons why it happened with no known fault, that the only conclusion he could reach was either the teacher was frustrated and took it out on him, or the teacher was trying to teach something to the class and used him as the vehicle to transfer it to the students.

“Corporal punishment is ingrained in society, and therefore takes time to stop,” explained Prof. Hiranthi Wijeymanna, former Vice Chairperson of the UN Monitoring Committee on the Rights of the Child. Both, parents and teachers try to justify and glorify punishment saying that if the punishment was good for them why not for their children. However, the very justification of the act, stems from the need to hide the psychological pain resulted from their own personal experience in childhood.

“Today’s abused is tomorrow’s abuser” commented Prof. Harendra de Silva, founder Chairperson of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA). There are many reasons to stop corporal punishment. In the first place, it is a violation of the rights of an undefended person. While an adult who is hit could take that case before the authorities and fight it out, a child has no forum to raise his voice. Further, though people argue it is good, the violence and emotional imbalance generated therein is cyclical, growing in intensity. For example, in a child subjected to corporal punishment though the physical harm could be healed quickly the emotional affect does not. The child may go down in his or her studies contemplating what happened; which brings in more punishment by teachers. With more punishment the child may refuse to go to school which might bring in the justification of punishment from parents as well. What would happen to such a child? “When the child is able to jump out of school, may be in Grade eight or nine he just loiters around, gets into bad company, drugs, smoking and drinking which make matters worse,” he explained.

His studies on youth behaviour had shown that their physical, mental/emotional and sexual aggression is directly related to their childhood experience, said Prof. de Silva. “Those who have been beaten in childhood or those who have been scolded and degraded and those who have been sexually abused in childhood reciprocate that in adult self.” Justification of corporal punishment worsens the situation and breeds impunity.

Most people hit children with the idea of compliance. Though they usually get immediate compliance, what really happens beyond compliance, questioned Clinical Psychologist Prof. Priyanjali De Zoysa. “Children imitate adults. Children learn that aggression is OK. As children if you learn that when you do something wrong another person hits you, it becomes normal for you. So, when you go to university and don’t like somebody you use the same tactic and we call it ragging.

When you grow older and in the workplace you find that you don’t like your employee or your subordinate you use verbal violence,” she explained. An important factor to consider in relation to corporal punishment is the lowered academic performance, she said. Last year, an islandwide survey revealed that the three main reasons corporal punishment is meted out in Sri Lankan schools are: failure to do homework, having love affairs with the opposite sex and not dressing in proper clothes. Children, mostly are unable to do homework because there is an inundation of homework in our schools; love affairs and dressing differently is part of the normal psycho-sexual development. “So, if our teachers hit children like this, how would you expect children to grow up to be wholesome adults with proper values? Worse here is that their academic performance is also reduced” she reiterated.

The laws in Sri Lanka, though supports cruelty against children is not clear and not strong enough to stop corporal punishment completely, commented Dr. Tush Wickramanayaka, Chairperson, Stop Child Cruelty Sri Lanka an organization against corporal punishment. Though the Penal Code bans the use of criminal force against a child, under the Education Ordinance it is allowed. Therefore, for a permanent change, the law needs to be amended.

Pix : Roshan Pitipana

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What you can do to end Corporal Punishment

Join the ‘Walk for Change’ at 3 p.m. starting at Independence Square

Visit the website www.stopchildcuelty.com and sign the petition

If you are a parent or a teacher, use positive disciplinary methods at all times

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Is it a cultural practice?

Though corporal punishment is viewed as part of Sri Lankan culture, it is a myth. During the 12th century, King Tissa banned bodily harm meted out as punishment for all including children in the country, which made him being called Voharika-Tissa. Further, King Vijayabahu II and King Vijayabahu III, had also issued edicts banning corporal punishment of children, as recorded in the Culavamsa, the historical record of Sri Lankan kings.

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What is Corporal Punishment?

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines corporal punishment as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.” It also goes on to say, while it mostly involves hitting, it could include acts such as, kicking, scratching, pinching, pulling hair, forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions. Other forms of punishment which though nonphysical, which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules children are included in this definition of corporal punishment as well.

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The way forward...

Change in knowledge - the understanding that corporal punishment is wrong and why it is wrong.

Change in attitudes - empowering people, with positive behavioural skills to discipline children which encourages establishing proper values and attitudes would lead to an attitudinal change in the society.

Change in the law – while important as a monitoring tool to keep violations in check, it needs to be respected and implemented. It should neither be draconian nor lenient.

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The team...

End Corporal Punishment (ECP-2020) is led by the Stop Child Cruelty Sri Lanka organisation and is supported by the ‘Daruwan Surakimu’ programme of the Presidential Secretariat. Many prominent names in the field of child protection are behind this campaign including Dr. Hiranthi Wijemanne, Prof. Emeritus Harendra de Silva, Dr. Tara De Mel and Prof. Priyanjali De Zoysa. While social activists, Otara Gunawardena and Sidath Wettimuny have come forward as patrons Luckshi Ranasinghe, is the Youth Ambassador of the campaign.

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