Children are very precious to their parents. However, in reality, parents and teachers who act in loco parentis continue to punish children with corporal and psychological torture. In our school, corporal and psychological punishment refer to the intentional application of the physical and psychological pain as the way of bringing discipline in the behavior of students. Many schools think that physical and psychological punishment is an efficacious method of training and discipline. Therefore the parents and teachers are not ready to recognize this kind of conduct as child abuse.
According to the information of Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF), in the first six months of the last year, 41 children became victims of physical abuse in educational institutions. In first six months of this year, the number is 69. While corporal punishment is visible, psychological punishment can hardly be identified and dealt with. In our society, isolation, threats, humiliation often escape detection and because of that these conducts are usually not considered as child abuse. Nevertheless, psychological punishment is equally harmful as corporal punishment, and this type of activity is also an infringement of children's rights. If a student insulted by their teacher in front of other students or people, they might find that difficult to accept. If a student disciplined through corporal punishment, they will retain that in their minds and remain indignant and resentful for a long period. No doubt, this will also confine their natural development.
According to 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights' (article 5) and 'International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights' (article 7), no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Bangladesh is a member state of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 19 of this convention gives children the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically and mentally. Article 37 states that no one is allowed to punish children in a cruel or harmful way even if he or she break the law while Article 28 strictly prohibits the use of any violence in school. Moreover, the school administration has to take into consideration the dignity of children while taking disciplinary actions.
In 2010, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and Ain O Salish Kendro (ASK) filed litigation to stop cruel punishment of children in educational institutions. On 13th January 2011, the High Court division delivered its judgment and held that, physical and psychological punishment in educational institutions is basic violation of children's rights, in particular of their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 27, 31, 32, and 35(5) of the constitution of Bangladesh and also of the state's international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In compliance with this judgment, the Education Ministry issued the 'Guidelines for the Prohibition of Corporal and Psychological Punishment of Students in Educational Institution 2011'. These guidelines characterize and define the nature of the forbidden physical and psychological punishments and penalize any behavior in conflict with these guidelines by teachers or others.
Unfortunately, there is no specific prohibition in state legislation regarding physical and psychological punishment in educational institutions. Children Act, which was enacted in 2013, doesn't have any provision against the physical and psychological punishment in educational institutions but according to section 70 of this Act, if any person with custody, charge or care of any child assaults, abuses, neglects, forsakes, abandons them then that person will be deemed to have committed an offense under this Act. The penalty for this offense is imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to one lakh taka or both.
The writer is a Legal Intern at Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST).