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Lashes not the way to go


Lashes not the way to go

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THE BIBLE has been used to justify slavery (Leviticus 25:44; Exodus 35:2). Calvinists in South Africa used those same biblical reference to justify their system of apartheid.

Some use the Bible to condone the use of physical punishment or the lashing of children. Many of us rely on the Bible to give us guidance, yet few amongst us would tolerate slavery or the Bible’s directive that if one works on a Sabbath he/she is to be put to death (Exodus 35:2). Eric Lewis’ recent commentary published in the WEEKEND NATION (No Harm In A Lash Or Two, February 20, 2015) echoes this cruelty and punishment. It was shocking and shameful for its promotion of violence against women and children.

When we consider the teaching of Jesus, He never once spoke a word that can be interpreted as advocating the infliction of painful punishment on any child. In fact, He was careful to do away with the idea that children are to be seen and not heard by welcoming them into His circle. Even so, as Lewis and others make clear, the role of Christianity in sustaining the use of corporal punishment on children is significant. And so is a history of colonisation.

The colonial period in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean resulted in the widespread use of corporal punishment in the context of slavery, military occupation and missionary work. In Canada,
the original people tell us that corporal punishment of children was not part of their child rearing practice but rather a system imposed upon them by the colonisers and cemented firmly through the
residential school policy.

Barbados and Canada, along with another 190 countries, have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC affirms the rights of children to participation, protection and the provision of resources in order to survive and thrive. The convention includes the right of children to protection from all kinds of abuse: including sexual, emotional, spiritual and physical abuse – which includes lashings, floggings and beatings.

Violence perpetrated against children, no matter how light, causes all sorts of complications in their lives as they develop and become adults. We now know that even mild to moderate forms of child physical punishment causes lasting complications. The dimensions of harm include physical injury, impaired relationships with parents, weaker internalisation of moral values, development of antisocial attitudes and aggressive behaviour, poorer cognitive development and academic achievement, mental health problems, poorer adult physical health and reduced earning potential.

Over the past ten years we have seen a rapidly growing body of research on the damaging impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) on the development of the young child’s brain – physical punishment is an ACE.

Researchers are also documenting the connection between child physical punishment
and the making of a violent society demonstrated in levels of societal bullying, dating violence,
physical aggression, homicide rates, anti-social behaviour and warfare. Regardless of the normality of corporal punishment in some cultures and whether or not it was tied to child aggressive tendencies, corporal punishment of children manifests itself in greater levels of societal violence.

All children need discipline to develop into good and contributing citizens. But discipline
does not imply physical punishment. Children need an attentive supportive family (however one defines their family) to guide them, listen to them, explain the difference between right and wrong, to provide alternatives to antisocial behaviours and that understands the process of child development. There are many parenting programmes that focus on positive discipline and they are accessible through social services, health services and PAREDOS.

As one researcher has noted, “the extensive research linking children’s experiences with violence to the development of violent behaviour as they grow into adults is now irrefutable. And common sense should surely tell us that if the world’s children are not protected from violence, the world will never be free of violence in all its forms”.

DR LETNIE ROCK, Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work, UWI, Cave Hill; and Dr Ailsa M. Watkinson, Faculty of Social Work, University of Regina, Canada