by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Informal street poll reveals 21 in support of, and 14 against corporal punishment
- Corporal punishment applied against children as it is allowed in schools by our education act is inhumane and barbaric
An informal street poll conducted among the average Grenadian on the topic of corporal punishment revealed an overwhelming majority not in support of its abolishment as a means of instilling discipline and regulating children’s behaviour.
Over a period of 3 months, at least 35 individuals were approached and interviewed. While the topic created much discussion in the public domain, very few were willing to go on record to express their opinion, and even fewer were willing to go on record to register their support for corporal punishment. 21 of them agreed in support of corporal punishment, while 14 supported its abolishment. Nevertheless, the small number of people who agreed to be interviewed on camera expressed different views on the subject.
Francis Pierre is in support of flogging as an act of discipline, but he also believes that parents should be educated on how to administer corporal punishment. “I think people need to be educated that when you spank a child, you are flogging a child not because you are angry, but you are flogging the child as an act of discipline. What is happening in our society is that people are beating children because they are angry. You have a situation where the spouse in the home has so many social and economic problems, and at that time the child torments them and a lot of times they beat the child because they are angry, but not because they are beating as an act of discipline, so there is a difference. People have to be educated and cultured about the difference.”
Pierre said, “Part of the education and discipline process is understanding that there are consequences for making a mistake and that could well be flogging. For instance, you could encourage parents that if a child does something wrong and the parents believe they should be flogged, flog them 24 hours after the incident happens so that the parents can be certain that they are not flogging because they are angry, but they are flogging because they believe that act of discipline could help the child.”
He strongly advocates for flogging in court for nonviolent offences rather than delivering prison sentencing. “We have a number of young men being sent to prison — for what, a guy steals some green sea eggs or breaks a bottle in [a] dance or use some obscenity. Maybe on the 3rd occasion, you flog them, but you shouldn’t send him to prison because almost all the prisons in the Caribbean are overpopulated,” he said.
Stemming from interactions with members of the public on this topic, there was a common thread within their argument of those people in support of corporal punishment: those who are in support of corporal punishment have had to endure being flogged or spanked in school or by their parents at home, and in most cases, some have openly stated that this method of punishment was administered quite harshly by their parents.
For those who received that form of punishment growing up, there is also a common saying that “Look how I turn out” hinting that being flogged for bad behaviour while they were young has somewhat assisted them to become model citizens.
Allister Amada from Fontenoy, St George, expressed his support of corporal punishment. Amada is a literature and psychology second-year student at the T A Marryshow Community College (TAMCC). He considers corporal punishment a debatable topic but disagrees that corporal punishment is a form of abuse. “Corporal punishment, in my opinion, is needed… but the way you go about administering corporal punishment is key, so from my standpoint, you might take a belt and beat your child, but knowing when to beat them, how to beat them, and why they are getting lash, is key. So that child knows that you are beating them because they did something wrong and to let them know that choices have consequences,” said Amada.
In his opinion, there is a distinct difference between corporal punishment and abuse, and the line is drawn when parents go about administering corporal punishment that inflicts long-lasting physical and emotional trauma.
On the other hand, some people believe that corporal punishment should be abolished, and for those people not in support, they have suggested that parents use other forms to reprimand children for bad behaviour.
Kwabena Amen is of that view, and as a father, he said there are more effective ways to discipline children. “Facilitating a child’s self-knowledge would be the best thing we can do to ensure that a child or human being is supposed to behave. Self-knowledge is knowing who I am, why am I here, where did I came from and where I am going, allows me to behave appropriately with everyone that I interact with. So, parents who have self-knowledge can pass self-knowledge onto their children, but parents who don’t have self-knowledge try to beat it in. I want to suggest that removing beating from our society and instilling love, care, understanding, and knowledge would be the best way we can go to bring about a more harmonious society that we are all seeking.”
Martha Pierre said that corporal punishment should be outlawed, but at the same time, the traditional methods of proper parenting need to be returned and applied in the homes. “I do not believe in beating children. It has so many other things we can do where children are concerned. You can talk to them, read more with them. Parents need to spend more time with their children and not expect them to go to school and expect the teachers to do all the work. When I was growing up, reading the bible was a must, so there are so many other things to do besides beating.”
Human rights activist and criminal defence attorney Richie Maitland shared his professional opinion on the issue referring to articles 54, 55 and 65 of the Criminal Code 1958 which provide for “justifiable force” for the purpose of “correction” of an adult.
“There is a constitutional challenge before the courts arguing that the section that allows for corporal punishment should be struck down for that exact reason, that it is inhumane and barbaric… and the government’s main argument in response is that might be the case, but it is saved under a specific section of the constitution which says that forms of punishment that existed prior to the coming into effect of the constitution are immune essentially from constitutional challenge. So that is my general view. I think it is inhumane and barbaric whether it is applied against adults as is the case within our criminal legal system, or against children as it is allowed in schools by our education act,” Maitland said.
Maitland also vehemently disagrees that corporal punishment can be administered with love. “I think people like to invoke that phrase as justification before or after the fact, as a pretext to justify a form of reprimand that is really for the parent’s benefit because it is a quick fix in that sense where you kind of beat the child and there is an immediate release that the parent feels. But the reality is, in the long term I don’t know that corporal punishment is as effective or more effective than other forms of reprimand, which include conversations with the child that instilled in the child a sense of why they were wrong.”
“Many people will argue to say that sometimes you have children that are incapable of reasoning. Perhaps they are so young that they can’t necessarily understand what you are saying, but in which case what sense does beating the child make? The child really wouldn’t have a full appreciation of why they are being beaten. I think that there are other forms of punishment including verbal reprimand that will have much more impact,” he said.
Referencing the study conducted by McGill University in Montreal that suggests that countries with a complete ban on corporal punishment have less violence, Maitland agreed that there is a correlation between corporal punishment and level of violence within a society.
Maitland made an analogy comparing corporal punishment in schools and the homes to gender-based violence against females. He stated that it is hypocritical to condemn one and not the other when the two are virtually the same. “I don’t think that analogy is necessarily a perfect one but it is a fair one. So if my wife or woman does something that I don’t like then I can apply violence to modify her behaviour and I think the reason why we feel that it is more acceptable for children is because especially in the Caribbean, we have this culture of seeing children as chattel in the same way that slaves, for instance, were seen as chattel. So you would often hear the statement made by parents that “I brought you into the world and I can take you out” but children are deserving of their right to life, and their right to personal security.”
There was a consensus with most of the people not in support of corporal punishment that there are more effective ways of disciplining children. Some of their suggestions included placing the child on timeout, by taking away privileges, scolding, rewarding or praising good behaviour, and in some cases ignoring mild misbehaviour.
This article is no way implies that the majority of Grenadians are in support of corporal punishment since only a formal survey on this subject can bring about that conclusion.