The use of corporal punishment in Bangladeshi schools and madrassas is in decline, or so it seems.
Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part or maybe the cruel senseless acts are not being reported to police or media. Or perhaps the acts of inhumanity are being shoved under the carpet as before.
I've read countless reports on corporal punishment to children and their ill effects. Quite frankly (no pun intended) I may have even considered being in favour of corporal punishment in certain instances, before my conscience kicked-in and mercilessly wrestled with and savaged the horrific thought.
Why are some people pro corporal punishment? In my own case I just can't quite figure out how kicking, grabbing, shoving, slapping, pushing, pinching or confining children in small spaces; taping their mouths shut, pulling their hair, shaving their heads, tugging at their ears, pinching, belittling, mocking, embarrassing, swearing, cursing and robbing them of dignity, making them look foolish in front of their peers or breaking sticks upon their young tender hands, backs and legs and branding their calves with a red-hot spatula, actually help their development - or the children who are watching.
How does even one of those inhumane cruelties aid them to become upstanding Bengali citizens? Am I missing something? Is it just me?
It's become a real mind boggler to me as to how some people can be so cruel to innocent children for not remembering their times tables or forgetting a line of two from the holy scriptures, or a Tagore poem. It just doesn't make sense.
They, the 'teachers' and imams are far from being perfect in their own lives, but feel they are justified in condemning the efforts of children, beating them to a pulp over minute trivialities that in the end mean nothing...absolutely NOTHING. Life goes on whether they know it or not.
In 2011, I had thought we'd seen the end of this senseless brutality to children; that Bangladesh had woken up, grown up, become civilized and proudly marched in-step with the good nations of the world that prized their children.
After all we're told often enough from the mouths of people like Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other honourable celebrities that children are the future of Bangladesh. If that be the case, it's commonsense they should be protected, nurtured properly, and shown respect and not subject them to beatings and ill health - mental and physical.
Justice Imman Ali
In their judgment summary on January 13, 2011, the noble wise Bengali men, Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif, defined the act of corporal punishment as 'cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom'.
And that provocative 'hitting the nail-on-the-head' quotation, Bengalis should be proud to know; has been used extensively ever since in anti corporal punishment campaigns throughout the world.
When something is wrong, there's nothing about it that's right. Corporal punishment violates not just the rights of children's to freedom from all violence, but also their rights to good health, development and education.
Hit an adult in Bangladesh and there's every chance you will be charged with assault and battery, end up in court, and do jail time. Hit a child and it's an entirely different scenario. They don't have any rights worth mentioning or if they do, they are seldom enforced. They rarely complain to the police because the police may demand payment for their 'secretarial' services.
Tons of irrefutable research has found that physical punishment is totally ineffective, bad for children's development and actually makes children's behaviour worse.
A monstrous 87 per cent of the world's children are not protected from corporal punishment by law. Sadly, this includes Bangladeshi children, too.
In November last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report in which it clearly stated a large body of research throughout the world has established links between corporal punishment and a wide range of negative outcomes-both immediate and long-term.
Some of those cause physical harm direct, sometimes resulting in severe, irreparable damage, long-term disability or death; mental ill health, including behavioural and anxiety disorders, depression, hopelessness, low self-esteem, self-harm and suicide attempts, alcohol and drug dependency, hostility and emotional instability, which continue into adulthood.
The report goes on to highlight corporal punishment as the society evil that impairs cognitive and socio-emotional development; damage to education, lower academic and occupational success and one of the leading reasons for children giving up at an early age and dropping out from education.
Who's to blame the children if an ignorant 'teacher' or imam beats them senseless in the classroom for making a miniscule error of no great importance and they run away to escape?
We've known for years, but the WHO report has again reminds us that corporal punishment leads to antisocial behaviour; increased aggression in children; adult perpetration of violent, antisocial and criminal behaviour; indirect physical harm, including developing cancer, alcohol-related problems, migraine, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and obesity that continue into adulthood; and damaged family relationships.
You can bet your last taka that wife-beaters were once victims of corporal punishment. You reap what you sow. If you want a sick, aggressive antisocial society, corporal punishment is a cheap and effective way of achieving it.
Corporal punishment, unquestionably, is CHILD ABUSE however light the abuse may be. There are no degrees of wrongness in this. Similarly, a woman cannot be a little bit pregnant. She's either pregnant or she's not. Calling abuse discipline doesn't change the reality of the sordid fact.
Coat it with sugar, maple syrup, or give it an entirely different name and it still remains child abuse. Shakespeare once observed, a rose is a rose and by giving it another name doesn't change that fact.
Ending corporal punishment is a human rights imperative, and essential if the world is to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #16.2 to end all violence against children by 2030. A mere eight years away.
The sooner the anti corporal punishment law is passed and enforced in Bangladesh, the sooner Bangabandhu can rest peacefully in his grave knowing his children are being protected, Bangladesh is on the right road to Sonar Bangla and Bangladesh will comply with the human rights goal of 2030.
May Allah bestow Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Dr. Dipu Moni with His blessings and the wisdom needed to correct this great injustice to both children and nation.
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, a humanitarian and human rights activist
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