Applicable in federal capital, legislation prohibits violence against anyone under 18, with violating educators facing dismissal from service
The National Assembly on Tuesday passed the ICT Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, banning any form of corporal punishment in educational institutions and seminaries in Pakistan’s federal capital.
Presented by Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) lawmaker Mehnaz Akbar Aziz, the private member bill was passed after inclusion of an amendment proposed by Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari. The amendment allows for complaints to be filed in court rather than to a government-designated committee, with Mazari saying “this would expedite justice.”
The ICT Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill calls for banning all forms of corporal punishment in educational institutions, including formal, non-formal and seminaries in both the public and private sectors as well as childcare institutions and rehabilitation centers. “Any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light it may be, which may involve hitting (smacking, slapping, spanking) a child with the hand or with an implement (a whip, stick, belt, shoe, wooden spoon, etc.,” is the definition of corporal punishment under the bill.
It clearly notes that kicking, shaking or throwing a child, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair or boxing ears are also forms of corporal and physical punishment. It states that forcing any child to stay in uncomfortable positions, burning, scalding or forced ingestion, as well as mental abuse were also designated as outlawed punishments.
The bill states that experts agree that physical punishment could have adverse consequences on a child’s health, particularly their behavior and emotional wellbeing. “One of the reasons attributed to higher drop-out rates in schools and low learning outcomes of students is physical punishment and castigation of pupils by the teachers,” it reads, adding that any teachers that violated its provisions would be penalized for assault and hurt inflicted upon children regardless of intention. This passage effectively cancels out provisions of Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which allowed teachers and guardians to administer physical punishment “in good faith” and “for the benefit” of the child.
The legislation stresses that violence against children would lead to demotions, suspension, dismissal, or forced retirement. Perpetrators of child abuse would not be eligible for a job in the future, it warns.
Shehzad Roy, the founder of the Zindagi Trust foundation—a non-governmental organization that works for the education of working children—told local media after the bill’s passage that it was a significant first step in ensuring the welfare of children. However, he warned, work still remained on changing societal mindsets to curb the corporal punishments many children face at home.
“Children grow up with the idea that violence is necessary for discipline,” he told Geo News. “The mindset that children need to be beaten to dissuade them from creating noise, or breaking things needs to be changed. Children will stop at the time but it creates very dangerous and long-term psychological damage,” he warned, adding that mass awareness campaigns were required to educate the public on how to discipline children without resorting to physical violence.