CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN SCHOOLS IN
Submitted to the Committee on
the Rights of the Child
Day of General Discussion on Violence Against Children
28 September 2001
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 3
I. INTRODUCTION 4
II. HOW CHILDREN ARE AFFECTED BY CORPORAL 5
2.1 Risk for the Child’s Physical and Psychological Health 5 2.2 Impact on Retention and Learning Achievements 6
III. LEGAL FRAMEWORK 7
3.1 The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
and the CRC Committe 7
3.2 National Legislation Against Corporal Punishment in South Asia 8 IV. CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN SCHOOLS IN SOUTH ASIA 11
V. WHY CORPORALPUNISHMENT IN SOUTH ASIA? 15
5.1 Fixed and Strong Power Relations 15
5.2 The Home Environment 17
5.3 The School System in South Asia 18
VI. ADDRESSING THE ISSUE 22
6.1 Need for Judicial Reform and Child-centred Learning 22
6.2 UNICEF Programme Activities in South Asia 23
VII. THE WAY FORWARD: AN AGENDA FOR UNICEF 25
For further information contact:
Child Protection and Gender Section
UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia
Tel: + 977 – 1 517 082
Corporal punishment is a common phenomenon in the daily life of South Asian children – at home, in schools, in places of work and in their neighbourhoods. Although very little research exists, testimonies from students, parents and teachers, as well as incidences reported in the media, suggest that corporal punishment is a common problem in many schools in the region. Not only are children physically and psychologically affected by corporal punishment, violence in schools and fear of teachers contributes significantly to children dropping out of school. Some children suffer a greater risk of corporal punishment due to their ethnic, family or class background. Children with disabilities are also more vulnerable to physical and psychological punishment. Corporal punishment in schools generally affects both boys and girls, but girls are more vulnerable to sexual abuse than boys.
While the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) demands that children be respected as human beings with the right to dignity and physical integrity, in South Asia corporal punishment is often considered necessary to children’s upbringing, to facilitate learning and to instil discipline.
No single factor accounts for the various forms of violence against children, including corporal punishment in schools. A range of interrelated social, cultural and educational factors contribute to the problem. The level of sanctioned violence is relatively high in South Asia, as is reflected in the high prevalence of violence against women and girl s. Violence in its many forms is often explained as deriving from unequal power relations. Hierarchy and unequal power relations are strong in South Asia and are reflected in the subordination of various castes, classes and ethnic groups, and in the oppres sion of and violence against certain groups.
The phenomenon of corporal punishment clearly reflects and manifests children’s lack of power and their low social status within society and the family as well as in the classroom. Children are generally seen as not ‘mature’ and the assumption is made that adults know best and thus must make decisions about children’s lives. The teacher is considered a figure of authority who must be obeyed while the students should adjust and comply.
The lack of accountability towards children in South Asian schools is another factor that contributes to violence in schools and to teachers making use of corporal punishment. Crowded classrooms with inadequate infrastructure, insufficient learning tools, and the numbers of untrained teachers also contribute to increased stress among teachers and subsequently to the frequent use of corporal punishment.
Governments have made some legal provisions concerning child abuse and corporal punishment but these are usually...