Stop beating children

Cases of children being abused or raped, both males and females, can be found in the media on most days

Editorial February 02, 2017

Considering the emphasis that is placed on the value of children by society at large, there is remarkably little legislation on the statute books to protect them — and such legislation as there is exists mostly but not exclusively in Punjab. It is indifferently implemented or not implemented at all. Cases of children being abused or raped, both males and females, can be found in the media on most days and they spread countrywide, with no area or province being any better or worse than another. A place where it might be expected that children would be in a protected environment is their school. Schools act in loco-parentis and have a special duty of care, yet there are instances every year in which children die at the hands of their teachers such is the violence meted out to them under the vile banner of ‘corporal punishment.’

Thus it is that we welcome a bill passed by the Sindh assembly on Tuesday that criminalises corporal punishment or any other cruel of humiliating or degrading treatment of a child. The bill applies no matter where the child is — in school or the workplace or, crucially, in the family home. It also includes children in foster care or children’s homes and rehabilitation centres, or within the juvenile justice system.

The scope of the bill could not be broader or more inclusive and on paper at least provides for the first time in Sindh a layer of protection for children that had not existed hitherto. The caveat is that there will be no protection the bill notwithstanding unless it is implemented, and consistently, in both letter and in spirit. The abuse of children is institutionalised, not just in Sindh but everywhere. It is part of the culture and a piece of paper legislation is not going to reverse centuries of abuse. An entire cohort, a generation, of teachers now need re-educating, training, if the bill is to have any effect in government schools. The private sector generally sees less abuse but it is not, should not be, exempt from the law. An exemplary start. We await the follow-up.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2017.

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