Saturday, April 30, 2022, was #EndCorporalPunishment Day. Anna Maria Mora shares her view on the issue of corporal punishment. Mora is a counselling psychologist in T&T. This article appeared in the International Association for Counselling, spring edition. She is a signatory to the #EndCorporalPunishmentCampaign on behalf of her organisation Mariama Children’s Museum & Teen Turf.
Governments have committed to ending violence against children in Sustainable Development Target 16.2. To end corporal punishment by 2030, this commitment must be urgently translated into action to prohibit and eliminate corporal punishment everywhere.
“Children have consistently expressed the urgent need to stop all this violence. Children testify to the hurt – not only physical, but the ‘hurt inside’ – which this violence causes them, compounded by adult acceptance, even approval of it” (UN Study on Violence against Children, 2006).
Corporal punishment continues to blight children’s lives worldwide. We know what works and we have eight years to #EndCorporalPunishment. Let’s call for urgent action to end corporal punishment of children all year round.
Corporal punishment comprises any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light; as well as other non-physical forms of punishment that are also cruel and degrading (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment 8, 2006).
Sixty-three States have prohibited all corporal punishment of children. However, 86 per cent of the world’s children are still waiting for this protection. This means that only 14 per cent of the world’s children are fully protected by law from corporal punishment (taken from the Advocacy and Communications Package).
Trinidad and Tobago’s children are in the latter group waiting patiently for corporal punishment to be banned in all settings. While they wait, one 15-year-old girl child is dead. Was it for talking to a boy, in this 21st century?
A six-year-old male child was found unresponsive in the bathroom at home, taken for attention and pronounced dead. Now we know that there were bruises and blunt force trauma. We did not hear what he did to deserve this. How many more must die?
Many countries still have a colonial past, with citizens still steeped in the teachings and behaviours of the master. We still have: “Children are seen and not heard”, “Might is right and whatever the parent says goes”. Parent: “I am in charge here. I pay the rent/mortgage, and you get all that you need; you have no say here.”
Many times, physical violence follows. There is also the warning: “I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it…”
Children and teens must be quiet, for fear of the corporal punishment which will follow.
I heard of a country where the President agreed that corporal punishment must be banned in all settings. The Government was committed to this. The next year when national elections came around, that Government lost the elections. Another country adjusted laws but left corporal punishment as permissible in the home.
Many of us who work with youth know that early drug abuse, heavy drinking, suicide attempts, and criminal activity can be the result of intense corporal punishment in the home. Some children end up with damaged brains. The home is a setting in which no-one can see or hear what is happening behind those closed doors. The screaming and bawling might be heard, but no-one wants to get involved. Sometimes, pieces of cloth are stuffed in the mouth.
Countries, individuals, and groups can be part of this campaign to #EndCorporalPunishment. Just send an email to: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be added to the mailing list and invited to sign the petition. It is time to become part of this campaign.
We in T&T must ban corporal punishment in all settings.