PAKISTAN: Corporal punishment is deemed fit by the schools to exert their authority on children

In a society infested with extremism and intolerance sadistic and violent behaviour is a natural outcome. As part of their daily lives, children all over Pakistan are spanked, slapped, hit, beaten and battered by parents and teachers. Corporal punishment may just be an impulsive reaction of an irritated parent or teacher. Yet In every case, it is a breach of fundamental human rights. Respect for human dignity and the right to physical integrity are universal principles. Yet social and legal acceptance of hitting and other humiliating treatment of children by adults persist in most countries across the world. Pakistan was among the first 20 countries that ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) yet in Pakistan the children are the worst sufferer and are denied the right to education and health. The rate of enrolment at school is already quiet dismal and top of that those associated with the profession of teaching feel that the corporal punishment is necessary to exert their authority on children and their parents even in the presence of Prohibition of the Corporal Punishment Act 2013.

Recently a student of a remote village of Toba Tek Singh, Punjab province, was beaten black and blue and was later forced to stay under the blazing sun because she remained absent from school for one day. Mubara Majeed, daughter of Abdul Majeed and student of Class 8th at the Government Secondary Middle School, Chak No. 245 G.B. Toba Tek Singh, was brutally beaten and forced to stand under the open sun for the whole school time for two days.

Mubarra’s Majeed’s “heinous” crime was that she had to attend the ‘Chaliswan’ (40th day of mourning) of her grandmother on April 8, 2015. Her grandmother died on March 4. Her only fault was that she remained absent from the school without taking leave from the school headmistress, Mrs. Rubina.

The headmistress of the school did not let her attend the funeral of her maternal grandmother and later stopped her from taking leave for attending the ‘Soyem’ (the third day of death) as well, which forced Mubarra to remain absent from the school on April 8 that infuriated Mrs Rubina who resorted to inhuman tactics to subdue a child.

However during past several weeks, Mubara Majeed’s condition has taken an odd turn, as she has developed severe skin problems due to overstay in the open besides suffering damage to her eyesight.  The question is who is responsible for her health? Since then, Mubarra is suffering from severe depression bouts, and is therefore unable to attend school which is hampering her studies. The family cannot afford to take her out of the school because this is the only school in their vicinity and they cannot send her to some other school, which are situated far away.

According to the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), 35,000 students in Pakistan leave education system each year because of corporal punishments.

These punishments involve hitting (e.g. smacking, slapping and spanking) with the hand or with objects like stick, whip, shoe or belt (UNICEF, 2014).

Over 70 per cent of teachers in Pakistan agree with the statement that corporal punishment is useful, as shown in a study launched by the education campaign Alif Ailaan. Accorging to the study the government of Punjab takes the forefront in the trend of administering corporal punishment despite running a campaign of “love not beating” at all public schools.

The state of education is always a cause for much negativity so the few times one gets positive news it is hard not to take notice. With a number of instances of teachers administering corporal punishment to students coming into the public limelight over the last few years, the passing of the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill 2013 by the National Assembly (NA) was considered a positive step. The act however is applicable to the federal territories only, as due to the 18th amendment the subject of education now vests with the provinces. Thus for this act to be applicable, provinces individually will have to pass the act in their provincial assemblies. However, the Sindh legislative assembly in Sindh has adopted a unanimous resolution to repeal Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code that allows schoolchildren under the age of 12 years to be punished for misbehaviour.

Under the Prohibition of the Corporal Punishment Act 2013, corporal punishment of children in educational institutions is disallowed. The bill’s clauses clearly declare that any form of corporal punishment of children in academic institutions is illegal and the individuals found to be involved in the acts would be sentenced to one year in prison, Rs. 50,000 fine or both.

Therefore, the authorities concerned should look into the matter and punitive actions must be taken against the headmistress under Prohibition of the Corporal Punishment Act for resorting to corporal punishment resulting in emotional as well as physical scars caused to Mubara Majeed.

All the education institutions including Madressas must be instructed to strictly follow the Prohibition of the Corporal Punishment Act and the copies of the Act must be displayed prominently at all educational institutions. The government must also establish a national body consisting of prominent educationist who would ensure the implementation of the law and would have the authority to penalize any teacher or institute found guilty of administering corporal punishment. Though enactment of such laws is the first step in right direction the state must also play an active role in ensure its implementation. Teachers must be trained to use technique to impart education in a friendly atmosphere where the bond between student and teacher is strengthened by mutual love and respect and not through fear of corporal punishment.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-073-2015
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Child rights, Inhuman & degrading treatment, Right to education, Rule of law,