Call to ban corporal punishment
Sir Frank Peters || risingbd.com
Is it possible for Bangabandhu's vision of a 'Sonar Bangla' to come to life while his children are being subjected to corporal punishment? I doubt it.
Bangladesh could have amazing bridges, transportation systems, and other top-notch infrastructures that people would come to admire in awe. It could even get the platinum award for being the most advanced nation on earth. But if the Bengal people are unhappy, have mental health issues, and need medication to get by, all these man-made structures are of little to no value. Corporal punishment given to children is attributed to many ailments they suffer – mental and physical – when adults.
Corporal punishment has been around for decades, and it was passed down from one generation to the next as a 'good thing'. The phrase "spare the rod, spoil the child" was often used to justify its use.
It's true that children need to be taught a lesson when they make mistakes, just like a toy train needs to be put back onto the tracks when it's tipped over. But beating children isn't right – it's downright cruel, disgusting and inhuman.
Whenever a parent, teacher or imam hits a child, love and respect for the performer fades or is lost. If someone slaps you on the face, you’re unlikely to forget it, irrespective of the nice kiss-and-make-up words that pursue.
Noble son of Bangladesh and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) who abhorred corporal punishment (and despised those who performed it) tried educating the world when he said: “To discipline means to teach, not to punish”.
There is a global awakening, however, and efforts are being made to undo all the wrong and untold damage the children suffered over the years. More and more countries are waking up to the ignorance, stupidity, and terrible consequences of corporal punishment and making sincere efforts to overturn the great injustice and damage caused.
Let’s pause here, momentarily, to bring into focus the benefits of corporal punishment. It won’t take long. It is a scientific fact – there are none!
There is, however, evidence in abundance to show that corporal punishment isn't effective, it's bad for kids' growth, and it actually makes the behaviour of children worse. There are so many written reports it’s shameful and reprehensible that so many trees gave their lives for the cause.
According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, a vast body of research has shown that corporal punishment has a number of negative consequences—both short-term and long-term.
Can you imagine that a child who is beaten today could be mentally damaged for life? I doubt if that would sit well with Bangabandhu’s beautiful Sonar Bangla dream.
Who really knows what goes in a child’s head, when we do not even know what goes on inside our own. A damaged child today is the broken adult of tomorrow.
There are no two people in the world who think the same way, not even conjoined twins. Hit one child and the effect might be the equivalent to water running off a duck’s back. If you hit another child, the result could be the undoing of all the lovely, happy, reassuring thoughts that the child had lovingly and carefully stored in their memory banks.
No two icebergs are alike, and they are much bigger than they look on the surface. That’s why they say, “the tip of the iceberg”. The damage to some children also goes much deeper than what appears on the surface.
So, what is corporal punishment?
Corporal punishment is the most common form of violence and abuse against children. It encompasses all types of physical punishment, including spanking, slapping, pinching, pulling, twisting, and hitting with or without an object. It may include forcing a child to consume unpleasant substances such as soap, hot sauce, or hot pepper or shouting and screaming, name-calling and belittling the child.
When a child is hit, it cannot be unhit. The damage is done.
In 1979, Sweden became the first country to ban corporal punishment. There is no plaque in Sweden that reads, ‘First Nation to Recognise and Ban the Evil Perils of Corporal Punishment and Child Abuse.’ But there should be. Well done, Sweden.
Ten years later, in 1989, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child (UNCRC). Despite the fact that it’s been 30 years since the UNCRC was adopted, many countries still haven’t outlawed this form of abuse against children, including Bangladesh.
Unfortunately, there are only 65 countries in the world where corporal punishment is prohibited in all its forms, yet all political leaders around the world keep repeating that children are our ‘future’. It is an undeniable fact that children are the children of all countries and our beloved Legendary Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has said so many times.
Then why is there no ban on corporal punishment here? The mind boggles.
In 2011, Bangladesh Supreme Court Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hassan declared corporal punishment to be ‘cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and a flagrant infringement of a child’s fundamental right to Life, Liberty and freedom,” and sought to have it banned.
Wales did so in less than 12 months. In Wales, the police urge anyone who witnesses a child being hit to call 999. Teachers who breach the law are fired and their school principals are disciplined and face demotion or dismissal.
If we want to bring Bangabandhu’s dream of Sonar Bangla to life, we need to wake up to reality, protect children from future mental illnesses, heartbreaks and tears by completely eliminating the despicable corporal punishment.
Dr. Dharmakanta Kumbhakar, a pathologist, at the Tezpur Medical College, recently wrote: “Children are the supreme asset of a nation. They are its greatest hope for its future.
“The future of a nation rests on healthy, protected, educated and well-developed children. They are the potential and useful human resources for its progress. Ignoring or neglecting the children means wasting the supreme national asset and loss to the nation as a whole.”
There is no doubt our legendary Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already taken Bangladesh forward at incredible speed, but it’s time for her to pause, look back, and address the plight of the children left in the wake.
Children are the most essential ingredients of Sonar Bangla and only when there is zero tolerance to corporal punishment can Bangladesh hope and deserve to receive the coveted Sonar Bangla statuette. No doubt, however, one day it will.
(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, human rights activist, Honorary Member of the Bangladesh Freedom Fighters and an esteemed foreign friend of Bangladesh )