Analysis

A Review Is Needed To Define What Corporal Punishment Constitutes

The ministry has been enforcing its anti-corporal punishment position with zero tolerance. As a result, a number of teachers have either been terminated or suspended.
31 Jul 2019 15:50
A Review Is Needed To Define What Corporal Punishment Constitutes

A prominent member of the legal fraternity has said that he was a product of corporal punishment.

Does this mean that he has turned out good because of corporal punishment?

He raised eyebrows when he made that remark at the recent Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions conference.

He was responding to a question from the floor on the issue.

The question: What is corporal punishment and how do we define it because it is not expressly written in law?

Right now any form of violence or physical force comes under the Crimes Act as assault.

The public interest in corporal punishment is generated by the emphasis placed by the Ministry of Education, Heritage on it.

Zero tolerance

It is in the form of a policy adopted by the ministry. It bans the use of corporal punishment in schools. In fact, it has adopted a zero tolerance on it.

This policy is based on the United Nations Convention prohibiting corporal punishment in all settings.

In the past, corporal punishment was used to instill discipline in schools and in homes.

The ministry has been enforcing its anti-corporal punishment position with zero tolerance. As a result, a number of teachers have either been terminated or suspended.

Last year, a popular principal of a prominent school was terminated for allegedly using corporal punishment to discipline a group of students.

When is the application of punishment deemed as corporal punishment? How big is the scope that fits into the definition of corporal punishment?

Is it a whack on the body using a stick?

What about a touch, a gentle slap?

Some argue there are varying degrees of corporal punishment.

Assault is a common charge under the Crimes Act that encompasses a range of action deemed as corporal punishment.

For corporal punishment to specifically be entered into the statute books it requires a law to be enacted by Parliament.

At the moment it is usually regarded as an assault and lumped together as other forms of violence.

There should be a review to clearly define what is corporal punishment. Broadly, it is physical punishment.

When a student is beaten at school for misbehaving it is corporal punishment. Penalties should be worked out so that they are compatible with the severity of the offence.

Smacking

We cannot rank a gentle slap on the body with a stick whacking.

Our regional neighbour and partner New Zealand is said to be the first English speaking country to enact the law against corporal punishment.

It prohibits the smacking of children anywhere, including at home and at school.

The supporters of corporal punishment maintain that it has succeeded in helping to discipline children in the past.

Today, anti-social behaviour continues to rise because discipline is non-existent in homes and schools.

But those who oppose it argue corporal punishment perpetuates violence as a means of correction.

The ministry has not changed its position. Its stern warning stands – teachers who breach or violate the rule will face the consequences. It will not tolerate or condone corporal punishment.

Protection

The ministry has a child protection policy, which ensures that the well-being, safety, respect and dignity of children are respected.

All teachers are expected to read and be well versed with this policy. It clearly articulates the action taken against child abuse perpetrators. Schools should also have their own child protection policy aligned to the ministry’s policy.

Under the UN Convention, the ministry is committed to protect the rights of children in the school and ensure that a conducive environment for learning is created.

It believes that corporal punishment creates fear in the lives of children and affects their concentration in school.

But there seems to be a growing body of opinions in the legal fraternity that more discussion is required to clarify the full definition and implications of corporal punishment.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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