Corporal punishment is child abuse however light the abuse may be – there are no degrees of wrongness in this.
It was a sad day for Barbados the day that Governor General Dame Sandra Mason seemingly advocated and endorsed corporal punishment to innocent young children – the future of Barbados – thus creating a pathway to child abuse.
Striking another human being, adult or child, is never right, it couldn’t possibly be right, in the eyes of God or man.
The good lady said: “I don’t believe you should lash somebody to kill them, but a little smack here and there can’t hurt.” Wrong! How wrong can wrong be? That’s similar to saying it’s okay to steal, as long as the item is cheap or inexpensive. When something is wrong, it is wrong… 100 per cent wrong. Corporal punishment is child abuse however light the abuse may be – there are no degrees of wrongness in this. A woman cannot be a little bit pregnant. She’s either pregnant, or she’s not.
How would the Governor General like her hair to be pulled, even lightly; to be pushed and shoved, even lightly; or to be given a smack across the face, even lightly? You can’t slap a person in the face and expect the act to be forgotten.
Corporal punishment is a violation of the most basic and crucial laws of a civilized society. No civilized society would tolerate or permit corporal punishment. How could violence of any kind, or to any degree assist in the upbringing of a child and help mould children into becoming better citizens of the nation?
Violence never resolved any conflicts and for violence to be actually taught in classrooms is shameful and a blemish on the perpetrators and on the nation. Alan Kazdin, Ph.D., a Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University, who carried out extensive studies on the subject recently said: “You cannot punish out the behaviours that you do not want. Therefore, there is no need for corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is a horrible thing that does not work.”
Bangladeshi superheroes, Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif, who outlawed corporal punishment in Bangladesh schools and madrasahs in 2011, described corporal punishment as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.
A survey by the University of Texas found children who were smacked in childhood were more likely to be physically aggressive towards their partners as adults.
The evidence amassed against the use of corporal punishment in the home and learning places is irrefutable and overwhelming. Notably, although there have been thousands of studies executed worldwide, there isn’t a single one that speaks in favour of the horrific practice. Even religious organizations that set out to find evidence to justify corporal punishment in their schools and madrasahs failed. Go to any library, or quality bookshop, and ask for a book on the benefits of corporal punishment and you’ll be directed to the fiction section.
There is NEVER justification for hitting a child. Therefore, how could there be justification for corporal punishment? An adult who hits a child is openly admitting his/her own lack of self-control and inability to address the given situation in a sensible, mature manner.
No doubt, you are familiar with the proverb that says ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. It’s been used to justify cruelty to children and hide the ignorance of the perpetrators for decades. In general, it’s interpreted in society to mean, if children are not physically punished when they do wrong, their personal development will suffer.
Another one people like to quote from the Holy Scriptures to justify the brutality of corporal punishment is Proverb 13:24 that says, ‘He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him’.
Both are right, but their interpretation is wrong. The problem lies in the flawed translation of the word ‘rod’ which has caused thousands, if not millions, of children to suffer ever since. In Hebrew, the word “rod” is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, ‘thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.’ The shepherd’s rod/staff was/is used to ENCOURAGE, GUIDE, and DISCIPLINE the sheep towards taking a desired direction, NOT to beat, hurt or damage them.
The correct interpretation of the proverb, therefore, should read ‘spare good GUIDANCE and spoil the child’. And this makes total sense. If you are in doubt, pause a moment… can you imagine great holy men like Jesus or Muhammad who preached universal love, beating an innocent little child for some silly trifling mistake that adds up to nothing in the end? Isn’t it more likely they would point out the error with a loving smile and offer them guidance (rod)?
If we are to believe that children are human we must also accept they have feelings similar to our own. Which adult do you know welcomes being slapped in the face with a shoe, kicked, hair-pulled, ears-twisted, beaten across the head with a metal scale or otherwise abused? Corporal punishment to any degree, Governor General, unquestionably, is child abuse that’s been falsely labelled as discipline.
In February 2015, Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church and spiritual leader to about 1.2 billion Christians told a gathering it was fine for parents to smack their children as punishment for bad behaviour. His Holiness, smiling and miming the action of slapping a child on the bottom, said: “One time, I heard a father say, ‘At times, I have to hit my children a bit, but never in the face so as not to humiliate them.’ “That’s great. He had a sense of dignity. He should punish, do the right thing, and then move on,” the Pope said.
On the surface the remark seemed harmless enough. Perhaps he said it to endear himself to family audiences, but it had much wider implications, as does the remark by Governor General Dame Sandra. Campaign groups and individuals for child protection (including the undersigned) as well as the United Nations immediately castigated His Holiness. Pope Francis has since withdrawn and apologised for his remarks.
I request Governor General Dame Sandra Mason to do likewise before any real damage is done.
No school should be a hellhole for any child. A classroom is no place for bullies, sadists, mentally disturbed ‘teachers’ or where fear and violence are bred and the love of learning is squashed. Neither should it be a place where the once-in-a-lifetime gift of angelic youth, fun, and joy is beaten out, and the horrific blight of hatred, anger, despise for society, and hellish revenge, are beaten in. We reap what we sow.
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, a royal goodwill ambassador and humanitarian. He’s successfully campaigned to outlaw corporal punishment in Bangladesh and three families have shown their appreciation by naming three boys ‘Frank Peters’ in his honour.