What law says about corporal punishment?

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Miti Sanjana
Published : 21:21, Feb 07, 2019 | Updated : 18:50, Feb 12, 2019

Miti SanjanaMany young school goers experience normal separation blues and may be upset and clingy especially when they go to residential schools. This is normal behavior at a very early age. Anxieties usually go away with comfort and time. In a few cases, this anxiety lingers much longer and may turn into a serious concern when they face corporal punishment at school. Some children develop a long-term fear of going to school because of corporal punishment. These children become emotionally insecure and very sensitive. A class IX student of a renowned school in Dhaka committed suicide a few months ago, allegedly due to humiliation by her teachers. Her Parent’s were called by the school where they were insulted in the presence of a school managing committee member. When her parents returned to their residence, they found the girl hanging from a ceiling fan. Her father alleged that his daughter committed suicide as she could not endure insult of her parents in her presence by the teachers.
International and national laws:
United Nation’s Convention on Rights of the Child in the General Comment No. 8 defines ‘corporal’ or ‘physical’ punishment as, “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light. Most involve hitting (“smacking”, “slapping”, “spanking”) children, with the hand or with an implement. In addition, there are other non-physical forms of punishment that are also cruel and degrading and thus incompatible with the Convention. These include, for example, punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules the child.”
Inhuman and corporal punishments are regarded as violence against children. These are a gross violation of human rights.
Bangladesh as a state party of UN Convention on Children's Rights is under an obligation to protect children from being subjected to any kind of torture, punishment and any cruel or inhuman or humiliating behavior (article 37) and physical violence (article 19). The provisions state that the educational discipline system requires teaching to be consistent with the child's dignity and in harmony with the present convention (Article 28.2).
The Universal Declaration of Human Right in article 5, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in article 7 and United Nations Convention against Torture urges that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
As per article 35(5) of Bangladesh's constitution, 'No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel and inhuman treatment or punishment'. Though, the Children Act 2013 does not have any particular provision prohibiting corporal punishment in schools or madrasas, Section 70 of the Act prohibits any hit, abuse, torture or negligence to children to prevent physical harm. If any person commits the 'offence', he will face up to five years imprisonment or Tk 100,000 fine or both. The Education Ministry in 2010 issued a circular prohibiting all sorts of corporal punishment for students. In 2011 the ministry issued another circular formulating a policy to end corporal punishment.
Corporal punishment affects students’ mental and physical development. It is the duty of a teacher and parents to nurture and assist a child to ensure his/her physical and mental development through proper education and to encourage them to become responsible citizens. Thus corporal punishment is not at all acceptable.
The following directions have been issued to take measures to end corporal punishment in educational institutions:
Corporal punishment is absolutely prohibited in all educational institutions;
Imposing corporal punishment shall be considered to constitute misconduct;
District Education Officers and Upazilla Secondary Education Officers shall take effective measures to end corporal punishment; they shall take measures against persons imposing corporal punishment under the Bangladesh Penal Code 1860, the Children Act, 1974 and, where appropriate through initiating departmental action;
Heads of educational institutions will take necessary steps in their own institutions to end the practice of corporal punishment;
School management committees shall take steps in their own institutions to identify teachers who impose corporal punishment and shall take remedial measures in accordance with the rules;
Inspectors of the concerned offices, departments and boards of education under the Ministry of Education shall monitor the issue of corporal punishment and shall mention such matters in their inspection reports while inspecting educational institutions.
Our previous generation accepted many things that we no longer find relevant and acceptable in today’s world. We also realize that many of these traditions and beliefs were wrong. It is possible to love people and reject their traditions or beliefs. Corporal punishments at educational institutions to discipline children are not allowed by the laws of land. As adults, we frequently get frustrated, tired, and angry. Sometimes we are not patient enough to deal with what kids may be dishing out.
Miti Sanjana is a Barrister-at-law from Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, an Advocate of Supreme Court of Bangladesh, and an activist.

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