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Spare The Rod, Spoil The Child: Critical Look On Corporal Punishment

Corporal Punishment refers to a punishment in which physical harm is intended to cause to a child. Currently, the cases of Corporal Punishment are ever increasing in countries like India, Nepal, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, while the lowest rate of corporal punishment was recorded in Sweden. Several researches done across the globe have established the fact that corporal punishment done at home, school is highly associated with higher prevalence of higher externalizing behavior of children. Corporal punishment still remains one of the last holdouts of old-fashioned child rearing in India. Gone are the days when spanking, pinching or slapping a child would discipline a child.

Yet Corporal Punishment still persist in today's time, a recently conducted nationwide survey has highlighted that 77.5% of parents resort to hitting children, with 28% admitting that they still do it on regular basis. Why do Parents continue to hit their child in the name of discipline?

One reason is its long tradition, corporal punishment has been occurring throughout the entirety of the recorded history and is still prevalent is today's time. Children turn into Taciturn and usually become untalkative, uncommunicative, and reticent. Children from the beginning were made to believe that infliction of harm was a part of growing up, so this part of harm was always dubbed with love and care of parents and became one of the biggest reasons that this problem did not come into the limelight.

This article will summarize the current state of knowledge about both the intended and unintended effects of Corporal Punishment in India. Meaning, effects and provision of Corporal Punishment in India will also be dealt with.

What Is Corporal Punishment?

Corporal punishment simply means a punishment that is intended to cause physical pain to a person. It is also known as Physical Punishment. This form of punishment forms a violation of the law because it causes harm or pain to the body of the person. This form of punishment is scorned because it does not happen even once or twice, it is repeated several times in schools or other areas.

Corporal punishment is the use of physical force on others' bodies to cause pain for a minor issue. The objective of causing corporal punishment is that the mistake will not ever be repeated by the child, causing an element of fear in the mind of the child.

Corporal punishment is the most generic form of violence faced by Children. About 100 children die every year because of Corporal punishment, which number is ever-increasing. In terms of health, physical punishments to children leads to physical illnesses such as Asthma, Cardiovascular disease, obesity, and high blood pressure. Corporal punishment also takes control over the psychological health of a child such as antisocial behavior, depression, and anxiety disorders. Corporal punishments also disrupt the relation or bond that the child is having with their Parents.

While there is no statutory definition of the term 'Corporal punishment,' the right to children for free and compulsory education (RTE) ACT, 2009 prohibits physical punishment to children and mental harassment under section 17(1) and makes a punishable offense under section 17(2). Even in schools, we might have seen and even faced corporal punishments, but we might have ignored these kinds of punishments to come into limelight, as it is shown to us on daily basis. Not only in India this kind of punishment is prevalent globally both in homes and schools.

Around 60% of children aged between 2-14 years face these kinds of problems. Corporal punishment is a violation of children's right to respect physical and human dignity, health, development and integrity, and freedom from torture and other cruel act. This kind of harm or violence is also considered essential for the 2030 agenda for sustainable development for removing physical discrimination, to end abuse exploitation and all other forms of abuse against children.

Can The Teachers Or Parents Be Exempted?

Usually, the parents or teachers are left because of certain exceptions given to them in the Indian penal Code and other acts. A benefit from the exception of Section 88, IPC is taken by the parents, teachers, wards, hostels, or orphanages. When held they justify their action by stating that it was done for the child's benefit with no illicit intention to cause any harm of permanent cause under Section 2(9) of the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015.

In this "best interest of the child" means the basis of interest for the benefit of the child to fulfill the basic rights and necessities of children, done for the benefit of the child, with no illicit intention in the mind of Parents to cause any sort of harm to their child.

However, this stands no grounds for the Teachers or Parents to be exempted. Parents, teachers, or guardians should use any other technique for disciplining their Child, concerning the future of the child. In the famous case law of, Ingraham V. Wright legal case in which the Supreme Court on April 9, 1977, ruled that Corporal Punishment in public schools did not fall within the scope of "cruel and unusual punishment" clause did not violate the Fourteenth amendment of procedural due process.

Negative Consequences Of Corporal Punishment

When a child is being given corporal punishment by his or her parent, it is given by his or her parent with a positive mindset that it will teach the child the lesson in a rigid manner but they are unaware of the fact that it will lead to various negative consequences. Not only it will make the child not able to do the act again, but it will also make the child depressed, at a tender age of less than 10.

A Child should be treated fairly and reasonably by showing benignity, gentleness and an act of clemency should be shown by the parent. Corporal punishment can lead to an everlasting impact on the mind of the child and creates a bad psyche in the mind the child, which will hinder his development. Corporal punishment leads to a plethora of deleterious physical or psychological cycles including aggressive behavior, poor grades, decreased focus, poor confidence, anxiety, and depression.

Because, it is rightly said that "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."

Children who are ill-treated, battered, or abused are shown to be more aggressive than other children. A serious thing to be noted about corporal punishment is that it leads to a vicious cycle, which would unhesitatingly be repeated in their future. Taking examples from the policy of "Give and Take," the child will follow and repeat the actions of what he sees.

Another study reports that children who were hit at the age of 3 were 50% more aggressive at the age of 5.

Other findings from the study were as follows:
  1. Delinquent behavior increased.
  2. Worsened state of Child's mental health
  3. Increase in adult aggression
  4. Increase in adult criminal behavior.
  5. Small risk of the same behavior against a spouse or own children.

Apart from these consequences reported other studies report that children who receive corporal punishment have a lower IQ than other children, this finding is only because of one reason that constant threat of violence is stressful! Having a little amount of stress leads to lower brain cognitive ability and the amount of stress leads to lower functioning of the brain.

Provisions Under Indian Law

Hitting, beating, slapping, spanking, striking, or punching a child is a punishable offense according to Law. Various provisions have been created which has made hitting a child in school or any other area outside the home a punishable offense. If we take it from the international scenario, according to a survey conducted in Singapore, 9% of the students who were parents carried out corporal punishments at home often. There was a total of 584 cases recorded in the year 2018, taken for example from the world-wide.

Article 19 of the UN convention of the rights of child 1989(UNCRC) states that any form of punishment that causes violence to any child is and will be regarded as unacceptable, it lays down that children have the right to be protected from being mistreated or being hurt. Article 28(2) requires the state to take all the appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child's security.

India also has laid down some strict laws regarding Corporal Punishment because of the ever-increasing number of Corporal Punishments.

Section 17 of the Right to education act, 2009, imposes an absolute bar on corporate punishment. It prohibits physical or mental punishment of a child and prescribes disciplinary action to be taken against the accused. In an incredibly famous case of Hansmukhbhai Gokaldas shah V. State of Gujarat, Gujarat high court ruled that it does not recognize corporal punishment as a form of punishment.

Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act prescribes punishment for cruelty to children, it lays down that no child is entitled to be physically punished in cases of their wrongdoing or any other sort of behavior.

Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act prescribes whoever assaults, abandons, exposes, or willfully neglects a juvenile or a child shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to six months or fine, or both. It is most often applied to personnel in childcare institutions.

Sections 323 and 325 of the Indian Penal Code prohibit corporal punishment or harm done to any human being or criminal force given to the extent of the child to commit suicide.

Section 352 of IPC which states punishment for assault or criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation. It is worth mentioning that, if there is sudden or grave provocation by a child, he shall be exempted concerning his/her tender age, causing any sort of harm will lead to violation of Law.

Section 506, IPC where, the child is humiliated to such an extent that he commits suicide, provides punishment for criminal intimidation.

Section 305, IPC which leads to the abetment of suicide, it states that any person under the age of 18 years, if commits suicide shall be punished with death or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

There are also NCPCR guidelines that have eliminated corporal punishment against children in schools, and drop boxes are made available where the aggrieved can drop their complaints. Most of the schools have constituted "Corporal punishment monitoring cells" consisting of two teachers, two parents, one doctor, one lawyer, a counselor, an independent child rights activist of that area, and two senior students. While there are prohibitions at schools' daycares and other places there are no restrictions at home against the parents.

National policy for children 2013 states that in education "ensure no child is subjected to any physical punishment or mental harassment" and promote "positive engagement and environment to provide a child with good learning experience" to reduce the number of cases of Corporal Punishment.

Can Corporal Punishment Be Stopped?

Before delving into this heavy topic, I want to say that parenting is an arduous task to perform in which both the parents, the mother, and the father need to full fill their tasks accordingly and fairly, and. But sometimes it happens that the child is difficult to control, then it can be an exhaustive and non-appreciative job. Sometimes, it would happen that the parents would feel frustrated and stressed to handle this menace, but this does not mean always raising a hand against their child.

Various alternatives can be used instead of being violent.
  1. A child can be given choices, this will put the child in an objective situation in which he/she can choose the possibility which proves to be beneficial for him/her.
  2. Getting someone else involved, parents can use this technique in which they can ask someone else to be involved in solving the situation. Because many times it happens that the child may not be comfortable in disclosingall the information to the parents.
  3. Recognizing their positive trait, a child is obviously to make mistake but out of the mistake, they can be making a positive act behind it.
  4. Setting limits, instead of telling your child what to do try telling them what you will allow them to do. For example, "I will allow you to go play with your friends after you complete your homework"
  5. Stating your request positively, trying not to say anything negative, and allowing them to do whatever they are saying but positively and fruitfully even if you do not allow them to do the things which they want to do try to convince them with its negative traits in a positive manner.
  6. Creating a good bond with the child and creating a good rapport with the child would make the child comfortable in discussing all the problems that the child is facing easily and comfortably.
  7. Being vocal about the problems that the child is indulged in, if the child is not performing well in class or is lacking confidence while standing in public, then the activities of the child need to be traced in by their teachers or Parents.
  8. Take care of yourself, if someone is there to take care of the child go and take a walk outside.
  9. Listening to music can lower down the anger.
  10. Picking up a pencil and a notebook and jotting down helpful words and emotions can also be helpful.

Tutoring the child in a rightful manner is also considered to be a great technique for making the child learn other than giving him/her Corporal Punishment. Hitting a child will only make more aggressive and will create a path for violence, if the child is taught lessons through any other non-violent means, it will lead to the creation of a benevolent, polite and person of a more glorified soul.

People still follow the old age dictum, "Spare the rod, and spoil the child." Due to this corporal punishment in India is a frequent practice that is found in most homes. Though, it has been reduced in schools because of many laws and provisions, there is not much circumstantial evidence to show that it is not practiced now.

Not only in backward areas, but it is also found in urban areas too, it is surprising fact to know that this act is still prevalent in well-developed cities. Parents, teachers, or guardians cannot be exempted even if they are causing hurt to the child for a compelling cause, the problem arises in causing not only physical damage but also causing emotional damage to the child, which can also lead to cause a life term impact on child's health. Children are regarded as the future of the nation, and their lives and well-being cannot be held at stake. Therefore, strict laws and punishments are required for exterminating corporal punishments.

There are a thousand ways to tutor a child between the good and the bad. Using physical means to tutor the child only hardens the mind and soul of the child. Sometimes, it may also happen that the impressionable mind may adopt this habit and accept it as a correct measure to teach a child and they may grow up to be abusive adults who believe in the power of violence.

We are now in the 21st generation, and as time is evolving, we also need to evolve with our habits and change them. Even after laying down so many provisions and enactments, we are still following this practice. Still, with time, new laws and enactments are being laid down.

Like, Sati and child marriage practices that were conducted in India in ancient times which are now abolished, we also need to abolish this practice, so that our future generation can grow without any hesitation and blossom like a flower. We must act brightly for our future generation to come, because it is rightly said, "Corporal punishment is as humiliating for him who gives it as for him who receives it; it is ineffective besides."

  9.  Gershoff, E. T. (2010).
  10. More Harm Than Good: A Summary Of Scientific Research On The Intended And Unintended Effects Of Corporal Punishment On Children.Law and contemporary problems, 73(2), 31.

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