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April 30 is International End Corporal Punishment Day

Op-Ed 2024-04-06, 2:19pm


Sir Frank Peters2022 _sirfrankpeters@gmail.com_

Corporal punishment is indisputably child abuse, absurdly wrong, offers no benefits whatsoever, and makes no sense in the eyes of God nor man 

Sir Frank Peters

April 30 is International End Corporal Punishment Day... please make a note.

There are only 14% of children – that’s one in seven – around the world that are legally protected from corporal punishment. Sadly, Bangladesh is not one of them.

Corporal punishment is the physical and humiliating punishment of children at the hands of parents, teachers and caregivers. Thousands of children are seriously injured and many die as the result of corporal punishment each year. Some are also known to commit suicide because of the humiliation it causes.

Make no mistake; corporal punishment is child abuse – an act of violence – and who wants to encounter violence in their homes, schools or madrasas? Violence breed’s violence... and it’s exceptionally good at what it does. It’s impossible to teach children to behave better by hitting them and making them feel bad.

Around 600 million children under the age of five live in countries where the practice is legal in their homes.

Corporal punishment affects children regardless of their age, race, sex and social background. But it is often the most vulnerable – disabled, young and socially marginalized children – who experience higher levels of violent punishment. We see it here in Bangladesh.

Ahead of International Day to End Corporal Punishment on Tuesday, April 30, Save the Children is calling for the universal elimination of all forms of corporal punishment by 2030, to meet one of the targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals agreed in 2015.

On March 20 during this holy month of Ramadan we’re reminded yet again why Bangladesh MUST ban corporal punishment.  It was yet another horrific day in the corrugated annals of Bangladesh history.

On that day another sweet and innocent 9-year-old Allah-loving boy had his testicles, and other parts of his body, beaten and damaged with a stick by a deranged madrasah ‘teacher’.

And all this happened during the holy and sacred month of Ramadan, which makes it even worse. How long more will these senseless and cruel acts be permitted to be performed on the nation’s greatest asset and continue to damage the country’s prospects of ever becoming Sonar Bangla, as Bangabandhu hoped, wished, prayed, and dreamed Bangladesh to be?

Corporal punishment is indisputably child abuse, absurdly wrong, offers no benefits, and makes no sense whatsoever in the eyes of God nor man.

Let’s take this latest child abuse occurrence as an example. The 9-year-old student at Darul Quran Hafijiya Madrasa in Mirpur was unable to attend class one day because he was ill with fever.

The following day Saddam Hossain, his senseless sadistic madrasa teacher, forced him to kneel down and proceeded to beat him with a cane all over his petrified little body. Two of the strikes directly hit his testicles, from which he may never fully recover.

This unforgivable and senseless brutal assault from a ‘holy man’ resulted in the boy suffering from kidney complications and being admitted to the National Institute of Kidney Diseases & Urology (NIKDU) for treatment.

Following treatment, a doctor at NIKDU expressed concern over his condition and requested him to return after Eid al-Fitr for further tests.

The boy said when he returned to the madrasa he tried to explain to his ‘teacher’ why he had not attended the previous day, but Hossain wouldn’t listen to any explanation.

“He struck me repeatedly with a cane, causing excruciating pain," the boy said.

The following day the boy experienced intense pain and difficulty when urinating and traces of blood were found in his urine.

In addition to the deplorable pain and suffering caused to the boy, the low-income family also suffered financially. "Already, I have spent over Tk 20,000 for hospital admission and medical bills and the treatment costs continue to rise,” his father, a CNG driver, said.

The ‘teacher’ Saddam has absconded and switched-off his phone. Before going into hiding, however, he paid the family 9,000-taka. The family (which wants to remain anonymous) said it would not be filing a police report. Honourably, Aminul Islam, secretary of the Darul Quran Hafijiya Madrasa said it would meet the remaining related expenses.

If we are to believe that children are the greatest assets of Bangladesh, it stands to commonsense they should be given protection, not just for the sake of the children, but also to enrich the development of Bangladesh itself.

Over five decades have already passed during which it’s been a free-for-all to choose what’s right from wrong and while it’s against the law for an adult to hit another adult there’s no law to stop an adult from hitting a child. How preposterous is that?

In 2011 the High Court Divisional bench, comprising of Justice Md. Imman and Ali and Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif, attempted to rid Bangladesh of the horrific scourge declaring it to be: "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom", but like cockroaches in bathrooms, it’s still about.   

No doubt Education Minister Barrister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel, MP, has his hands full and I don’t envy him one bit. If not he, however, there must be at least one other Member of Parliament who has the best interests – and future of Bangladesh – at heart and leans towards fulfilling the wishes and aspirations of Bangabandhu, who can push the bill through? There is so much benefit to be gained and absolutely nothing to lose except sinful behaviour.

(The writer, Sir Frank Peters, is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award–winning writer, humanitarian, and a loyal foreign friend of Bangladesh.)