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Indian Chief Justice Warns Against Corporal Punishment... from personal experience

Op-Ed 2024-05-08, 11:40pm

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Sir Frank Peters



Sir Frank Peters

The chief justice of India, Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, has issued a stern warning against the ill effects of corporal punishment from personal experience as a victim.

Speaking at a seminar in Kathmandu last Saturday, he recalled when he was caned at school. The incident occurred when he was a Class 5 pupil. The eminent jurist is now 65.

That time-lapse alone speaks volumes about its evil. Corporal punishment is never forgotten, only pushed to the side, and every effort made to forget it.

When Dhananjaya was a youth, ignorance of the effects corporal punishment had on the human body and mind was relatively unknown and was up there with bloodletting, and Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) as being beneficial.

Corporal punishment was performed by (“this is going to hurt me than it’s going to hurt you”) loving parents because they knew no better. It was the done thing. It was what parents and their parents before them did. They labeled it discipline, so that gave it socially acceptable face. But similar to the DDT insecticide used in agriculture to destroy the bugs that ate the crops and worked wonders on the surface; underneath an entirely different nightmarish story evolved

Even 50-years after DDT was banned in most countries (not all) the poisonous effects are still present in the food chain today. Despite the massive amount of evidence against corporal punishment (more than DDT ever had) children are still victims of the evil abuse and subject to life-long damage mentally, physically, and emotionally in all sorts of ways.

OUR GREATEST ASSETS

Allegedly the children are a nation’s greatest assets (indisputably) and the future of the nation (indisputably), why they should be treated with such disrespect is totally incomprehensible. Why there isn’t a total ban on corporal punishment in ALL countries OVER-NIGHT is mind boggling.

Some people claim they beat their children out of love... to set proper guidelines... to put them on the right path towards becoming respected members of society. These people are more to be pitied than laughed at. Like oil and water, it’s impossible for love and abuse to mix.

The learned Chief Justice Dhananjaya told his audience: "How you treat children has a deep impact on their minds throughout their life.” He then went on to relate a day in which he was caned at school.

“I was learning craft and didn't bring the right sized needles to class for the assignment," he said. “I still remember asking my teacher to cane my bum and not my hand," he added, but the ‘teacher’ did not heed his request. Feeling shame, he did not tell his parents and hid his injured right palm for 10 days.

"The physical wound healed, but left an everlasting imprint on the mind and soul. It is still with me when I do my work. The impact of such travesty on children is so deep," he said.

“The way people treat children leaves a lasting impact on their minds,” said, the highest-ranking officer of the Indian judiciary and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of India.

The chief justice shared the incident while speaking at the National Symposium on Juvenile Justice organised by the Supreme Court of Nepal in Kathmandu.

Corporal punishment is evil

It is not an exaggeration to state that any form of Corporal punishment is evil, degrading, unjustifiable and a gross violation of the rights of children. Corporal punishment offers no solutions, only problems; offers no positive benefits, only disadvantages and disturbing memories that could last a lifetime.

Prohibition of corporal punishment is still to be achieved throughout India in the home, some alternative care settings, day care and some schools.

In 2011, Supreme Court Justices Imman Ali and Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif sped away from the starting blocks in a relay race that would ban corporal punishment in Bangladesh as its prize.

They 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 nobody carried the baton forward.

While their efforts produced good results in some reputable schools and madrassas, the results were way short of what is needed. Evil still lurks within the education system and won’t be completely eradicated until there’s a total ban in place and those responsible for the horrors are removed.

Laos has just become the 66th nation to legally prohibit corporal punishment to children. Similar to Bangladesh, where violence on children is prevalent; especially in rural areas, Laos shed its bad reputation and become the first in Southeast Asia to officially outlaw corporal punishment. This new law fully protects children from all forms of violent punishment, recognizes their importance, and safeguards children’s rights.

Personally, I had hoped Bangladesh would have become number 66 and made a significant advance towards becoming Sonar Bangla. The number has a nice ring to it, but the 67 slot on the International Roll of Honour is vacant – waiting for occupancy – and that’s just as good.

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