Corpun file 16053
Channel 5 TV, Belize, 23 June 2005
Corporal punishment of children: still an issue
Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Creole, however, we attempt to paraphrase the quotes in English, while preserving some of the Creole flavour.
In Belize there is no law against corporal punishment for children under the
age of sixteen including those in the primary education system. In fact, Section thirty-one of the Criminal Code allows force or harm if it is used to correct a child for misconduct. Section thirty-nine allows other force not exceeding a wound or grievous harm for the purpose of correcting a child under sixteen for misconduct or disobedience. According to the National Organization for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, this form of discipline is in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that Belize signed in 1990. In fact, article seven of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights includes a ban on corporal punishment. Jacqueline Woods has more.
Denbigh Yorke, Director, NOPCAN
”We are talking about lashings, hitting all over the body. We are talking about
being stoned with objects, we are talking about all forms, all different forms.”
Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
A 1999-2000 study conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Belize reveals that fifty percent of children are being abused as a result of corporal punishment carried out in our schools and homes. Last December, News Five featured the story of an eleven year old student who was physically disciplined by one of his teachers. The teacher is reported to have used a car antenna to beat the boy on his hands and legs, causing the child’s skin to bruise. The Ministry of Education responded by saying that such physical discipline is not recommended, but if a student should be lashed, it should only be carried out by the school principal or in the principal’s presence.
”As you are aware, corporal punishment in Belize is entrenched culturally. It’s
within the psyche of the Belizean people and it’s not something that is readily
going to be viewed to be taken away, especially in light of the current situation where violence is rampant.”
Director of Human Services Ava Pennil says that while there is a need to change
the laws, there is an even greater need to provide parents and teachers with alternative measures to discipline their children and students.
Ava Pennil, Director, Human Services
”I know that Education is re-looking at it. That is something that is on their top burner when we meet in meetings, that they want to remove it totally from the school rules. It is something that was also mentioned when we went to Geneva that that was one of the concerns they brought up, that we had corporal punishment as a form of discipline. So we need to do something to get it off the books. But just taking it off the books it is easy to do that, what we want to do is to have children be disciplined in other ways other than corporal punishment.”
A situational analysis was produced with the assistance of several schools across the country. Today, the results and recommendations from that study were presented at a press conference. NOPCAN’s Director, Denbigh Yorke, told us what are some of the positive things parents and teachers can do to discipline children.
”The children, they expressed that instead of teachers not exercising patience with them, teachers need to develop patience, they need to be able to have certain activities to create a good atmosphere in the classroom to develop good interpersonal relationships to develop self-control. To look at anger, how to manage anger, how to solve conflicts peacefully.”
“For parents, we want to create awareness; we want them to not view it as some threat to their authority, to their responsibility over their homes and their children, but to look at it from a more positive perspective.”
One such awareness is being created through a publication presented by children
Jasmine Skeen, Children in Action, Member
“Corporal punishment is like punishment that parents do to their children that hurts them really bad. But because the children are doing bad, that their parents come in a do anything to them to hurt them, but there are other ways to punish them, like taking away toys and things like that too.”
If you would like to find out more about what can be done to curb the incidence
of corporal punishment and what children are saying about the issue, copies of the situational analysis and the Children in Action newsletter can be picked up at NOPCAN’s office in Belize City. Jacqueline Woods for News Five.
NOPCAN's office is located on the third floor of the old nursing building at the corner of St. Thomas and Princess Margaret Drive.
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