SPANKING - Questions and answers about disciplinary violence
The majority of its countries feature high levels of physical punishment and violence against children. Society accepts corporal punishment, and there are no measures to prohibit its use. In the countries where school corporal punishment has been abolished (Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen), the bans rarely have much effect.
In the Gaza territory of Palestine, coordinators from a non-governmental organization were hard-pressed to get their Palestinian minders to renounce corporal punishment. As they saw it, it was an essential element of authority, whether at home or at school.
In Iran, punishment for a man who kills his own son or grandson is left to a judge's discretion, though he also may have to pay "blood money."
Two nations in this region have banned corporal punishment not only at school but also in the home.
The first is Cyprus, which took this step in 1994. But there is reason to wonder if this ban is truly enforced, given the Committee's lament in 1994 that a detailed study of child abuse had yet to be undertaken in Cyprus.
The other exception is Israel, where the ban was issued in January 2000 by the Supreme Court following an appellate case, then ratified by the Knesset on June 13th of the same year. This is a welcome decision, since physical punishment is a regular event for many Israeli children. There was actually a story in the Jerusalem Post about how summer vacation is a nightmarish time for them, since parents no longer fear that marks left on them will be spotted by teachers.
The situation in South Asia is more or less the same as in Southwest Asia: lack of awareness, lack of information, lack of preventative or restrictive measures, no systematic study.
Some nations, such as Sri Lanka, attribute child abuse to "the empire of alcohol," seeing it only "in some villages," even interpreting the absence of complaints as an absence of abuse, while child victims need the state's official protection to disinhibit formal complaints on their behalf.
Regarding Bangladesh, the Committee points to the abuses committed by police against abandoned or vagrant children. And they add: "A country that condoned and tolerated the use of corporal punishment could scarcely be expected to protect children against other manifestations of violence."
Bhutan declares its "philosophy of compassion, tolerance, the brotherhood of man," but "there are no legal provisions specific to corporal punishment in schools." The official report simply mentions that "parents may have recourse to the Law and judges have the power to decide cases in accordance with the principles of natural justice. However, the teacher training institutes strongly discourage the use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline within the school environment and are promoting alternative methods for managing children in the classroom."
In India, according to the governmental delegate, "There had been a few cases of children being beaten in schools, but nothing on so wide a scale as to cause alarm." This optimism is hard to square with an account I received from a friend in Pondicherry: "My friends who teach at the French-run high schools are coming up against criticism from families who can't understand why they don't hit the children. A mother came in not long ago at the start of the year, asking a teacher not to hit her recently injured son on his right side. When the teacher replied that this was not a practice he used, she became indignant, insisting that the boy be hit elsewhere on his body . . ." (August 2000).
There are two pieces of more comforting news, however: Maldives seem to have made a real effort to combat the use of physical punishment. And the Punjab region of Pakistan has decided to ban school corporal punishment, in accordance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Pakistan is a signatory. Corporal punishment is to be completely abolished there in 2004. But at the same time, Pakistani journalist Mariana Baabar has uncovered a high frequency of rape and horrible acts of brutality (thrashings with an iron rod) inflicted by maulanas (Muslim priests) upon children entrusted to them in the madrassas (Koranic schools). It is in these schools that many an Afghan Taliban was “molded.” (Courrier International, no. 744, February 3-9, 2005)
In the main countries of Asia's southeast, corporal punishment is customary within the family, at school, and in penitentiaries, even when they are prohibited.
In December 1999, Malaysia's prime minister attributed his success and long tenure in government to the use of the rod, from which his childhood had benefited. In this same country, Chinese-run schools have a particular reputation for discipline, thanks to the vigorous use of caning practiced there with parents' approval and sometimes their participation.
In Singapore, as the Sunday Times reports (April 11, 1999), two out of three parents give their children canings for not doing homework, forgetting to bring books to or from school, or having a disorderly schoolbag. Some children are caned on a weekly basis. In the schools, four out of five teachers practice caning, in the elementary as well as the secondary grades. The rattan canes are imported from China and sold in stores carrying household items.
The report from Thailand recognizes that "Thai society through the ages has accepted that teachers, instructors and parents can cane the children under their control." Thai culture "accepts corporal punishment as proof of caring for the child." But things may be changing, as Thailand's government has taken strong action to put a stop to this practice.
China and North Korea describe their parent-child relations in idyllic terms. In the latter country, parents do not beat their children except "out of love, in order to inculcate discipline and morality."
The reality in China is that corporal punishment is a widespread practice among families, as Confucian tradition places a premium on obedience. This is also the case in the schools, rural ones in particular, where the punishments are so brutal that authorities fear that they are turning out children who are too submissive and lack the enterprising spirit required for the new economy. Neighboring countries, which champion the same tradition, reflect it more openly.
In South Korea, where corporal punishments under the color of discipline are known as "spankings of love," as well as in Taiwan and Japan, physical punishments are also a serious problem. 74.7% of South Korean parents think that teachers should be allowed to hit children for educational purposes.
In Mongolia, a number of children end up running away from home to escape the violence they are dealt.