Latest stories

Photo essays

Video and audio

Latest stories

 

All You Want to Know About Corporal Punishment

What is corporal punishment? Why should it matter to us? Why is challenging corporal punishment very important. This document gives you in-depth understanding of these issues and also provides you guide to the legal provisions against corporal punishment in India.

“Children are sick of being called ‘the future’. They want to enjoy their childhoods, free of violence, now”.
 Paulo Pinheiro, 2007,  UN General Assembly

1. What is Corporal Punishment?

The Committee on the Rights of the Child in the General Comment No. 8 defines ‘corporal’ or ‘physical’ punishment as,
“any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light. Most involves hitting (“smacking”, “slapping”, “spanking”) children, with the hand or with an implement ……. In the view of the Committee, corporal punishment is invariably degrading.

In addition, there are other non-physical forms of punishment that are also cruel and degrading and thus incompatible with the Convention. These include, for example, punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules the child.”

2. Is Corporal Punishment common in India?

Yes, two out of three school going children in India are physically abused says the national report on child abuse by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007. The crime is rampant in every single district of the country. Two out of three school going children in India are physically abused says the national report on child abuse by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007. The crime is rampant in every single district of the country.


Boys are marginally more likely to face physical abuse (73 per cent) than girls (65 percent). Corporal punishment in both government as well as private schools is deeply ingrained as a tool to discipline children and as a normal action. But most children do not report or confide about the matter to anyone and suffer silently.

3. What are the types of Corporal Punishment used in Schools?

Corporal or physical punishment is any punishment in which physical force is intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort and all other acts leading to insult, humiliation, physical and mental injury, and even death.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child in the General Comment No. 8 defines ‘corporal’ or ‘physical’ punishment as,

“any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light. Most involves hitting (“smacking”, “slapping”, “spanking”) children, with the hand or with an implement ……. In the view of the Committee, corporal punishment is invariably degrading.

In addition, there are other non-physical forms of punishment that are also cruel and degrading and thus incompatible with the Convention. These include, for example, punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules the child.”

Table 1: Type of Punishment in School reported by children
















4. What are the international human rights provisions which speak out against corporal punishment?

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child includes the Right to Protection of the child against abuse, which is categorized as an Immediate Right.  Article 19 of the CRC requires States to protect children from “all forms of physical or mental violence”. During the first decade of the Convention, the Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended to over 120 States to abolish all corporal punishment and develop public education campaigns to promote positive, non-violent discipline in the family, schools and other institutions.

In 1999 the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted a General Comment on “The Right to Education” which stated that corporal punishment is inconsistent with the fundamental guiding principle of international human rights law enshrined in the Preambles to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and both Covenants.

5. In India what are the provisions against corporal punishment?

Article 21 of the Constitution protecting the ‘right to life’ is the first point of reference.  The Child Rights Charter 2003 of India specifically states “All children have a right to be protected against neglect, maltreatment, injury, trafficking, sexual and physical abuse of all kinds, corporal punishment, torture, exploitation, violence and degrading treatment.”

Prohibition and elimination of corporal punishment in schools is identified as a priority in the 2005 National Plan of Action for Children and the report on child protection in the National Plan for 2007-2012. The National Policy on Education (1986, modified 1992) states that “corporal punishment will be firmly excluded from the educational systems.”

In August 2007, the NCPCR also wrote to all chief secretaries with detailed guidelines recommending practical steps for the elimination of corporal punishment. In December of the same year, the Human Resource Development Ministry also wrote to all Chief Secretaries recommending that corporal punishment be prohibited in all schools in the jurisdiction of the state government as it “severely affects the human dignity of the child, thereby reducing his/her self esteem and self confidence”.

A Right to Education Bill (Bill No. LXV of 2008), which would achieve prohibition, has been placed in Rajya Sabha and awaits enactment. It categorically states:

“17. (1) No child shall be subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment.
(2) Whoever contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be liable to disciplinary action under the service rules applicable to such person.”

6. How does Corporal Punishment affect the child?

Children due to fear are often silent and submit to violence without questioning. They sometimes show signs of deep hurt in their behavior but this often goes unnoticed, perpetuating further violence on them.

More often than not, when a teacher uses violence on children it is an outburst of his/her personal frustration. V.K. Vijayan, Professor, Institute of Mental Health, Kilpauk is of the opinion that corporal punishment not only affects the emotional behaviour and academic performance of a child, but also leads to reduction in self esteem and dignity of child. 

There is a large body of international research detailing the negative outcomes of corporal punishment. Some of the conclusions are presented below:

Escalation: Mild punishments in infancy are so ineffective that they tend to escalate as the child grows older. The little smack thus becomes a spanking and then a beating.

Encouraging violence: Even a little slap carries the message that violence is the appropriate response to conflict or unwanted behaviour. Aggression breeds aggression. Children subjected to physical punishment have been shown to be more likely than others to be aggressive to siblings; to bully other children at school; to take part in aggressively anti-social behaviour in adolescence; to be violent to their spouses and their own children and to commit violent crimes.

National commissions on violence in America, Australia, Germany, South Africa and the UK have recommended ending corporal punishment of children as an essential step towards reducing all violence in society.

Psychological damage: Corporal punishment can be emotionally harmful to children. Research especially indicts messages confusing love with pain, and anger with submission are the most psychologically harmful. “I punish you for your own sake. You must show remorse no matter how angry or humiliated you are.”

7. Is corporal punishment banned worldwide?

Corporal Punishment in schools is prohibited in nearly half of the world’s countries. In the past 20 years, eighteen countries have enacted laws prohibiting corporal punishment in all settings, namely in the home, in schools, alternative care and in the judicial system.

It is of interest to note that since the turn of the century, ten countries have officially prohibited all forms of corporal punishment. The pace of reform is gathering momentum in light of the UN Study on Violence against children which recommended in its final report prohibition in law of all corporal punishment of children by 2009.

8. How can attitudes toward corporal punishment be changed?

Legal protections against corporal punishment are important to safeguard the rights of a child. However, in practice, legal options are usually resorted to only in case of extreme corporal punishment. They are nevertheless important measures of deterrence.

It is very important that teachers should know that by assaulting children they risk not only dismissal but also prosecution by criminal law, which doesn’t exist in India at present.

Simultaneously, public education is crucial to accompany law reform. The process of law reform and enactment of the Right to Education Bill with provisions on corporal punishment itself has the potential to be educational if properly disseminated.

Teacher training and sensitisation, public interest programmes, community mobilization, educating children on their rights etc can additionally play an important role to change attitudes.

9. How can teachers manage children without scolding them? They have to face such large size classes!

The work conditions of school teachers in most government schools are undoubtedly adverse. There are over crowded classes, not enough text books, first-generation learners etc. But children are not responsible for all these problems that teachers face in performing their duties. It is so easy to victimize the weak. Besides, this is not to say that there is no violence or corporal punishment on children in well-to do schools.

10. What is Positive Discipline?

The positive discipline parenting and classroom management model is based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs originated in the 1920s. It consists of a specific set of techniques for rewarding good behavior and curtailing negative behaviors. It is a program designed to teach children to become responsible, respectful and resourceful and inculcates a spirit of self-discipline.

It empowers children to make life decisions, based on their own experiences, and to utilise an internal system of reinforcement to weigh the values of the decisions that they have made.

For a practical toolkit on positive discipline for professionals, parents, teachers and care-givers, please use the following links to download it:

Positive Discipline: What is It and How to Do It

A Toolkit on Positive Discipline: With Particular Emphasis on South and Central Asia

 

 
Search:

For every child
Health, Education, Equality, Protection
ADVANCE HUMANITY