This article is written by Dhruv Bharadwaj, here he discusses the corporal punishments in India.
General notion about Corporal Punishment
Since time immemorial, punishing children has been considered a sure shot panacea to raising responsible and disciplined offspring. Children were made to believe that the infliction of harm was a part and parcel of growing up, hence he or she never thought that his or her rights had been infringed upon. Infliction of harm was dubbed as love and care in the best interest of the child thereby making most children never felt the need to report such incidents. This write up discusses at length, the situation of Corporal Punishment in India at present.
What does the term ‘Corporal Punishment’ embody
Lacking a statutory definition, the term ‘Corporal Punishment’ has evolved greatly. From being looked at from a mere physical aspect, the ambit of the term ‘Corporal Punishment’ now also encroaches upon the territory of mental punishment. Although physical forms of Corporal Punishment are mostly inflicted upon boys, the other form affects the other gender too. Corporal Punishment can be broadly classified into 3 types, the first one being Physical, the second one being Mental and lastly Discriminatory.
Physical Corporal Punishment refers to any infliction of harm that causes pain and discomfort to a child, however light it may be.
There cannot be an exhaustive list encapsulating all forms of Physical Corporal Punishment but a descriptive list is given below:
- “Thrashing by the perpetrator using hands, legs or any other object, Scratching the body part of the child, Pinching him or her, sinking one’s teeth into him or her, grabbing the child by the hair, spanking the child with the hand or using an object like a belt, stick, a pair of shoes, etc.;
- Making the children stand in an uncomfortable position like making him stand on a bench with his hands raised, making him hold his ears through his legs for a prolonged period, making him kneel on the ground, etc.
- Making him staying back in the recess or after school or not allowing him to play in the games period.”
Mental Corporal Punishment refers to any non-physical infliction of harm that takes a toll on the class performance as well as cognitive well-being of a child. It includes, but is not restricted to the following things:
- “Belittling the child in front of his classmates that in-turn lowers his/her dignity;
- Scolding the child and often referring to him with humiliating adjectives instead of calling him or her by his or her name;
- Punishing a child for his poor academic achievements and being indifferent that the child may actually be suffering from some sort of a learning disability which makes him a slow learner;
- Constantly comparing the child with his or her peers in the hope that this comparison would motivate the child to do better;
- Imitating a child with a speech disorder like stammering.
Discriminatory Corporal Punishment refers to biased views and conduct towards a child because of his/her gender, caste, the occupation of his/her parents or the non-payment of fees or for being a student admitted under the quota for underprivileged children under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. It includes but is not limited to the following things:
- Not providing these children with the basic facilities by denying them things that they are entitled to under the RTE Act, 2009 like the mid-day meals, uniforms or books.
- Dividing the duties among the children on the basis of the caste that they belong to, like making a certain group of students clean the toilets just because they come from a particular caste and for no other reason whatsoever.
Prevalence of Corporal Punishment in India
A nation-wide study called ‘Child Abuse in India – 2007’, conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, covered 13 Indian states and interviewed children who had not completed the age of 18 years and its findings were as follows:
- Two out of every three children were physically abused.
- Out of 69% of the children physically abused in 13 sample states, 54.68% were boys.
- Over 50% of the children in all the 13 sample states were being subjected to one or the other form of physical abuse.
- 65% of school going children reported facing corporal punishment at some point in their lives.
- The State of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, and Delhi have almost consistently reported higher rates of abuse in all forms as compared to other states.
- Most children did not report the matter to anyone.
Emotional Abuse and Girl child neglect
- Every second child reported facing emotional abuse.
- An equal percentage of both girls and boys reported facing emotional abuse.
- In 83% of the cases, parents were the abusers.
- 48.4% of girls wished they were boys.
One major finding of the report was that out of all other age groups, children aged between 5-12 were at most risk of abuse and exploitation.
Articles of the Indian Constitution and Laws that the infliction of Corporal Punishment violates
The Constitution of India, 1950
“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which protects the right to life and dignity clearly militates against the dignity of a child while he is being punished or ridiculed in front of his fellow classmates.
“The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age six to fourteen years in such manner as the state may, by law, determine”
The rationale behind how the infliction of Corporal Punishment gets in the way of Article 21 mentioned above is that because of the fear of infliction of Corporal Punishment, children miss school regularly and some even drop out permanently.
Also according to the Directive Principles of State Policy:
The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing :
(1) That the health and strength of workers, men, and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength;
(2) That children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
Indian Penal Code, 1860
There are various provisions of the Indian Penal Code which govern the perpetrators of Corporal Punishment based on the gravity of the harm inflicted. They are as follows:
Section 305: Abetment of suicide committed by a child;
Section 323: Voluntarily causing hurt;
Section 325: Voluntarily causing grievous hurt;
Section 326: Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means;
Section 352: Assault or use of criminal force otherwise than a grave provocation;
Section 354: Outraging the modesty of a woman;
Section 506: Criminal intimidation;
Section 509: Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman;
Earlier the perpetrators of Corporal Punishment used to take the defence of acting in good faith and in the interest of the child but in Hasmukhbhai Gokaldas Shah vs. the State of Gujarat, the court had clearly said that Corporal Punishment was no longer recognized by law.
The Right to Education Act, 2009
Section 17(1) & 17(2) of the Right to Education Act of 2009 also provides an additional safety net to the victims of Child abuse. Section 17(1) of the Right to Education Act of 2009 clearly prohibits the infliction of any sort of punishment be it physical or mental upon a child and whoever acts in contravention of 17(1) shall be liable to disciplinary action under the service rules applicable to such person.
Also, Sections 8 and 9 of the Right To Education Act of 2009 place a duty on the appropriate Government and the local authority to “ensure that the child belonging to weaker section and the child belonging to the disadvantaged group are not discriminated against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any grounds”.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Chidren) Act, 2000
According to Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, any person who is in control of a juvenile and who abandons, assaults, exposes or wilfully neglects the juvenile or procures him to be abandoned, assaulted, exposed or neglected which in turn causes mental or physical pain to him/her shall be punished with imprisonment up to six months, or fine, or with both.
In addition to the above-mentioned statutes and their sections dealing with the perpetrators of Corporal Punishment, various sections of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 can also be used to prosecute the person who inflicts harm upon the children.
Bodies established to curb Corporal Punishment
The two major statutory bodies which are at the helm of eradication of Corporal Punishment from the Indian sub-continent are the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights. These bodies have been tasked with eyeing whether or not the children are being treated in consonance with the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
According to section 31.1 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights were set up to examine and review the rights provided under this Act and to also make recommendations for their effective implementation. They were also entrusted with the task of inquiring into the complaints relating to the child’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education. The NCPCR and the SCPCR can also take the required steps as laid out under Section 15 and 24 of the Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights Act.
Corporal Punishment and its consequences
It goes without saying that any form of infliction of punishment will have serious and lasting effects on the psyche of the child and will also hinder his or her development in the long run. But one very disturbing fact about Corporal Punishment is that it is a vicious cycle. The one who has been hit will feel it is okay to hit too and this is where it gets alarming. Corporal Punishment gives rise to a plethora of deleterious physical, psychological and educational outcomes including increased aggressive behaviour, poor grades in the classroom, decreased focus, increased number of students dropping out of school or being irregular to school, poor confidence, anxiety, depression and the worst of all, suicide. These might look like they will only impact the child till the time he is in school but it might leave a scar so deep that could actually last a lifetime.
Alternative ways of disciplining the child
Owing to the uncountable pernicious ramifications of infliction of Corporal Punishment which do more harm than good, we need to look for different ways to discipline the child. There cannot be an exhaustive list of measures to take for achieving the end goal but a descriptive list is laid out below.
The first one is the development of a good rapport with the child from an early age so that you can talk to him or her on a very personal level. With so many children in a particular classroom, this method might not work for teachers but is considered one of the most effective methods for parents.
The second one is being vocal about the consequences of the act that the child indulges in. If it is about not performing well in class, then the parent/teacher needs to be vocal about how this could hamper the child’s dreams in the future, both monetary and non-monetary.
The third way to discipline a child can be taking away the privileges given to him or her, his or her favourite past-time which he or she will cherish the most.
Corporal Punishment is still prevalent in India but that is mostly in rural and backward areas. Effective measures are being taken, awareness is being spread and the statutory bodies are doing their work efficiently. With the current regimen towards the eradication of Corporal Punishment, complete eradication doesn’t look unachievable.