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Australia prepares to outlaw corporal punishment

Frank Peters || risingbd.com

Published: 16:44, 16 May 2023  
Australia prepares to outlaw corporal punishment

The most common, single most horrific regret any parent can take to his or her grave I suspect (but many do) is that of subjecting the child they love – their own flesh and blood, their gift from God – to corporal punishment. The thought seems preposterous.

“The devil made me do it” is probably the most truthful response they could ever offer in remorse, but corporal punishment is not perceived to be the work of the devil, but, astonishingly, that of God; and there lies the justification for the evil inflicted on hapless pure innocent young souls.

Woe betide those who dare even to question and not unconditionally accept what is written in the GOOD books, but what if the text in those sacred books had misprints or their meaning was changed through misinterpretation?

We’re all familiar with the well worn threadbare adage “spare the rod and spoil the child”. It’s common to many homes, school and madrassas and the majority of parents have used it liberally to justify anything from (alleged) ‘harmless’ loving smacks, to painful beatings, to downright vicious inhuman cruelty.

On the surface “spare the rod and spoil the child” is good sound advice, makes total sense and has stood the test of time. If it’s stated in the “GOOD book”, then it must be right. Right?

Well... yes and no.

(Deep breath... HUGE sigh... extended pause...), the text is right, but the interpretation is totally wrong!

The problem lies in the translation of the word ‘rod’.

In Hebrew (the language in which the Bible was written), the word “rod” is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, ‘thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me’.

The shepherd's hooked rod/staff was/is used to ENCOURAGE, GUIDE, and DISCIPLINE the sheep towards taking a desired direction, NOT to traumatize, beat, hurt, or damage them (and lower their value). That would not make a scrap of sense, but many children do not even enjoy the consideration given to sheep.

The word ‘rod’ means DISCIPLINE. It doesn’t mean the extremely wicked, inhuman, cruel and horrific corporal punishment produced by a stick.

So the sentence should read, “spare DISCIPLINE and spoil the child”. No matter who we are or what jobs we hold, we are all in constant need of discipline supplied fresh on a regular basis, as is the air we breathe.

As Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore said: “discipline mean to teach, not to punish” and to qualify this even more, discipline means to point out the errors made and correct them in an understanding, compassionate and proper manner.

There is no beating, kicking, spitting, slapping children on their face, and pulling their hair, pinching or any other type of cruelty involved. Discipline is a kindred spirit: a fusion of love, kindness, understanding, compassion that’s completely free of violence and cruelty

Violence, however small and seeming insignificant, is destructive, without any positive redeeming values and has no place in any setting. Violence is a recipe for disaster and abhorred by all enlightened, educated communities and definitely should never... NEVER... be seen or taught to children in classrooms and madrassas. Violence is the antithesis of love and respect.

Those among us who feel they are neglecting to chastise and correct their children properly, if they don’t beat them should take a step or two (or more) back and acquaint themselves with the facts.

Scientists and educationalists throughout the world have established beyond all doubt corporal punishment is TOTALLY without benefit and extremely destructive. And that does not just apply to the child, but society on the whole.

More and more countries are awakening each year to the facts and benefits of banning corporal punishment. From March 21, 2021 it became illegal to physically punish children in Wales.  This means that children in Wales have the same protection from assault as adults.

In many countries it’s against the law to strike an adult. You could be charged with assault, but a ‘teacher’, priest, or imam could wallop a child senseless and still keep their job and pick-up their pay packet!

Police in Wales have set-up an Emergency Helpline for anyone to report seeing anyone beat a child. In Ireland and Wales the penalty imposed for disobeying that law is instant dismissal from the school, which could end their teaching career and give them a criminal record.

In January 13, 2011, Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif of the Bangladesh High Court, declared corporal punishment to be "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom". Twelve years on it still hasn’t been passed into law, but echoes of "our children are our greatest resource and the future of Bangladesh" still hops merrily unimpeded from one hot corrugated village rooftop to the next.

Any nation wise enough to realize that children are its future; would be careless or woefully amiss not to do all in its power to protect their most valued asset as one would gold, a diamond or other precious stone.

This week, a new Australian study declared it finds no legal or scientific support for corporal punishment and recommends banning the practice.

The study in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, reviewed a wide base of studies surrounding the impact of corporal punishment on a child’s development and well being, and found the vast majority of studies concluded corporal punishment was associated with serious negative outcomes for children.

These included reducing trust in others, causing lower self-esteem, contributing to mental health difficulties and increasing the risk of substance abuse and violence later on in a child’s life. There is a catalogue of ill effects corporal punishment can have upon children.

One cannot help, but wonder about parents who declare they love their children, maybe not beat them, but knowingly send them to schools and madrassahs where there’s a strong possibility of “their most loved treasure in the world” is beaten. The mind boggles.

It’s time for these people to discard their ostrich feathered thoughts, take their head out of the sand, and offer the protection their children need. After all the children are “our greatest resource and the future of the nation"... or so world leaders tell us.

(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor; an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, human rights activist and an Honorary Member of the Bangladesh Freedom Fighters.)

Sir Frank Peters/Nasim