The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Sir Frank Peters
I am always shocked… amazed… bewildered… even horrified by the attitude of some (seemingly good, seemingly righteous) people towards corporal punishment to children, including their own.
Some can see no wrong in it whatsoever and regard it as their God-given right to lash out at the nearest child, generally a family member or a pupil in their charge. The tarpaulin they use to cover their ignorance and shortcomings in compassion is given the name “discipline”. They regard the child as their property and feel entitled to do as they so wish. Some even hide behind passages in ‘holy books’ that in their thinking gives them every right and justification to abuse the children in their charge, as slaves once were.
I’m shocked . . . amazed. . . bewildered that in this alleged enlightened society of ours that children are still being brutalised – some even beaten to death – for absolute minor, insignificant, meaningless transgressions. How could that be right or reflect the philosophies found in “holy books”? Impossible!
Of the thousands of religions in the world, not one condones corporal punishment against children, whether that is in the school, home, madrassa or wherever children are to be found. The Islamic religion, as one example, is strictly against the heinous barbaric practice. Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani, Chairman, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) in Islamabad, told the world media a while back that Islam strictly prohibits physical punishment of both males and females of any degree.
One of the main sources for most of the corporal punishment suffered by children worldwide nowadays points to flaws in Christian teachings. Teachers, parents, Christians and non-Christians alike, are only too happy to scream the worn-out cliché “spare the rod and spoil the child” as they perform their evil on an innocent hapless child.
There is no doubt about it that the “spare the rod and spoil the child” adage is excellent and priceless advice. The problem is in the flawed translation of the word “rod”, which does not mean a stick, bamboo or other implement.
In Hebrew (the language in which the Bible was written) the word “rod” is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me” and means discipline. Which is entirely different and makes sense.
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 in any way (and reduce their value). The correct interpretation of the proverb, therefore, should read “spare good guidance and spoil the child.”
Discipline means to teach
Everyone, man, woman and child, regardless of their position in life need discipline. It’s as essential as having a strong immune system in times of coronavirus. Corporal punishment is what discipline isn’t.
That brilliant Bengali writer and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore put it in a nutshell when he said: “Discipline means to teach, not to punish.” If corporal punishment isn’t discipline (which it clearly isn’t) is it right, therefore, that a parent, teacher, guardian or imam should beat children? Of course, not!
If teachers, parents, guardians or imams are so disciplined and perfect in their own lives why is there a need for them to display their ignorance and cruelty in this way? World leaders have said children are the future and we all know that to be true. Today’s child is the adult of tomorrow. A damaged child today, is the broken adult of tomorrow.
It is always wrong to hit a child. And never is hitting a child ‘for their own good’. That idea is totally absurd and demonstrates the gross ignorance of the wrongdoer. Try imagining Muhammad or Jesus slapping children in the face, beating them with sticks, pulling their hair, or giving them a thrashing as some of the children today experience. Impossible!
You can’t slap a person in the face and expect it to be forgotten. Corporal punishment is a violation of the most basic and crucial laws of a civilised society. No civilised society would permit corporal punishment. It is a scientifically proven fact that corporal punishment serves no good whatsoever.
Nowhere in the bible is there any mention of Mary and Joseph beating Jesus, or the child-loving Prophet Jesus beating his young students. If Jesus Christ thought it would help the children, he would have whacked them continuously. Civilised people don’t hit people. Children are people, too.
Many people deem their children to be a ‘gift from God’. Why, therefore, would anyone in his or her right mind abuse such a priceless precious gift or allow anyone else to do so? Supreme Court Justices Imman Ali and Sheikh Hassan Arif outlawed corporal punishment in Bangladesh. In their summary, the noble justices defined corporal punishment as “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom.”
There is no place for corporal punishment in modern society. Horrendous mistakes were made in the past and to our shame, countless children were damaged mentally and physically and even killed as a result. Our mission now should be to write-off corporal punishment to errors of our past and not carry it forward. We cannot change the sordid past, but we can change the future. Reinhold Niebuh wrote this prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Irish statesman Edmund Burke (1729-1797) once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. It is crystal clear corporal punishment is wrong and it’s time for good people to take action to stop it.
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, a humanitarian, a royal goodwill ambassador and
a long-time friend of Bangladesh.