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Corporal punishment: face the reality

SIR FRANK PETERS :: The mind boggles when I hear about parents who claim to love their children “more than anything else on earth” (as if reciting poetic lines from a Hallmark greetings card).

Or they are willing “to give their own lives” to protect them from danger. Then force them to attend schools or madrasas where knowingly the child is beaten and mistreated: their child’s Heavenly-given goodness beaten-out and hellish nightmares beaten-in.

How is it possible to beat someone – or allow someone else to do the beating – especially someone as fragile as a loving child who has invested all their hope, love, faith and trust in the belief their parents will be there always to love and protect them, and expect their unconditional love and respect in return? It’s time to take a Wake-up to Reality pill. It just doesn’t, and won’t, happen.

There are millions of pill-popping, drug-taking, glue-sniffing youths and adults spread worldwide – including Bangladesh – living in a confused state of mind trying to figure out where their lives went wrong, believing themselves to be unloved, that their parents and the world is against them and are doing everything in their power to suppress or shut out thoughts of anguish, torment and despair that haunt their minds.

I’m not claiming for one moment that corporal punishment is the root cause of such human anguish, destruction and despair, or even that it was its trigger; but one thing’s for certain, it wouldn’t have helped.

Hardly a month goes by when new intensive research supports a worldwide ban on corporal punishment in the homes and schools.

Momentarily, however, put all the academic, medical and scientific evidence to one side and engage your own common sense.

Try explaining to yourself how it is beneficial to a child to beat him with a stick, clenched fist, and leather belt or bamboo cane. Or how by kicking, punching, pinching, pulling their ears and hair enhances is good for the child’s development. It can’t be justified.

Some ‘teachers’ view every child entrusted into their care to be there for their masochistic pleasure to be slapped about, kicked, beaten, mentally and physically mistreated in an assortment of ways. And they conveniently name this abuse… wait for it… discipline!

Let’s bring to mind that horrific hellish nightmare enacted at the Talimul Quran Mahila Madrasa in Kadamtali where 14 young girls were literally branded for life with a red-hot cooking spatula by their ‘teacher’. The smell of burning flesh may have since left the madrasa building, but not their minds. Are they feeling love and respect for the ‘teacher’ and those who allowed it to happen? Let your common sense answer that.

On May 10, The Independent newspaper ran a photograph on its front page of three little boys in chains at the Abdul Aziz Noorani Hafizia Madrasa in Scygaon village in Shariatpur district. Their ‘crime’? – Being inattentive at their studies. While it is obvious to all and sundry that this inhuman, barbaric treatment does not enhance the image of an alleged civilised Bangladesh, one can’t help but wonder what else might be happening at the madrasa and if the authorities have bothered to visit to find out.

The common thread between all survey results is summed-up in the most recent Canadian Medical Association Journal that reads:

“Children who are given corporal punishment in school or in the home, spanked, slapped, grabbed and pushed, shoved, kicked, beaten with a cane or any other means of physical punishment, may be at an increased risk for developing mental problems later in life and it may cause mood and anxiety disorders or lead to alcohol and drug abuse.”

Other research links corporal punishment to cancer, massive school drop-outs, mood and anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, cardio-vascular disease, arthritis, obesity, wife-beatings, muggings and other social misbehaviour.

Even if only ten per cent of the above is true, can any loving parent afford to take the risk of damaging for life the child they claim to love “more than anything else on earth”?

Bangladesh was seemingly blessed when on January 13, 2011, the High Court Divisional bench comprising of Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md Sheikh Hasan Arif outlawed corporal punishment in Bangladeshi schools and madrassas. These noble judges defined it as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.

At first it seemed the answer to millions of prayers from mentally and physically tortured children throughout Bangladesh, but a lifetime habit of beating children mercilessly is a habit ‘teachers’ find hard to break, especially when given the support of ignorant, uneducated parents, and questionable law enforcement.

Malta has just become the latest nation to outlaw corporal punishment. (Congratulations, Malta!) Every year, more nations step up to protect children, the greatest treasure and future of their nation. It makes good social and economic sense. Societies that respect and nurture the development of children have lower crime rates, everyone benefits, and it’s the right thing to do.

Schools can be part of the problem and develop the next generation of muggers, miscreants and lawbreakers. Or they can be part of the solution and teach and encourage children to be mentally and physically healthy, well-rounded, and respected members of society.

Bangladesh is 43-years-old, but when is it actually going to mature?

Wake-up Bangladesh and smell the aggression in the already polluted air, particularly during hartals – the playing fields of thugs, terrorists, goons, loonies, miscreants, the misled and disillusioned.

Inflicting physical blows and mental torture upon a child only breeds resentment, violence, disrespect, hatred and vengeance in them and promotes a gun-toting, knife-wielding, bamboo-swinging outlaw society. Why would any school want to teach that? Why would any society welcome it?

The future of Bangladesh is in the hands of every parent through their children and while they may not give their lives to the nation, as those noble people in 1971, they can at least ensure they don’t contribute to its illness through the blinkered acceptance of corporal punishment.

We need to ask ourselves what kind of adults we would we like our children to become. It seems to me we would want them to be physically and emotionally healthy, intellectually capable, and self-disciplined, to lead productive lives, to sustain themselves and their families, and help sustain our hard-won democracy.

Parents who claim to love their children “more than anything else on earth” should say no to corporal punishment at their school or madrasa or at the very least, admit to being hypocrites.

(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, humanitarian, a royal Goodwill Ambassador, and a loyal foreign friend of Bangladesh.)

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