Columns

Corporal punishment, child abuse and the law

BY FRANKLIN JOHNSTON

Friday, November 17, 2017

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Jamaica is considering a law to ban corporal punishment — UN say so, and Prime Minister Andrew Holness agrees. So, from a mild slap to a back-siding with a cutlass may be criminalised. The UNICEF, Global Initiative, and UNESCO are good, but none ever raised a child.

Parents haven taken us from cave to computers so they must have done something right. Just because a stressed mother goes berserk and abuses a child is no reason to play God in our lives, or for Cabinet to usurp a parent's role. It sets a high bar for mothers yet does not save them from the stress of poverty or predatory men who avoid child support with a passion.

Corporal punishment is in the trilogy of shibboleths (plus hanging and buggery) which turn on our people. Some believe it should be banned based on childhood experience and urging of ex-slave masters who link aid to their new morality. But many of us believe otherwise, based on Abrahamic mores, healthy childhood, and loving correction who think Government should not intrude on family.

UN agencies focus on two-billion-plus Arabs, Africans, Asians and don't care a flying fig for small states. We must fit in while they empower Muslim girls, though our need is to empower boys. But as Jamaica is a global brand they will use us as a model to get other black nations on side. Fahget it!

Corporal punishment is “to inflict pain or harm on a body”. So, 'the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children' report of November 2017 on Jamaica says: “The near universal acceptance of violence in child rearing necessitates clarity in law that no degree or kind of corporal punishment is acceptable or lawful.” This is egregious slander, disrespect, unacceptable! Child abuse here is bad, but they speak from the comfort of a rich, welfare State with many benefits. Come walk a mile in my shoes! Jamaicans do not support violence to kids. Yes, one stressed mother 'lost it', but we know most do not. We love our kids, so, please don't jail mom, help alleviate her stress.

By UN rules any physical contact with a child may be abuse. A squeeze, kiss, a mild slap, a hug may be unwanted, deemed offensive or painful — jail! They dare not take this to African, Asian or Arab nations whose culture is otherwise. Will a nation that uses slaves, sells body parts for ju-jus, cut off hands for stealing or heads for adultery, ban corporal punishment?

What then is violence? “Behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage or kill,” and synonyms are “brutality, ferocity, savagery, cruelty, barbarity,” which they say is “universally accepted” by us. The “back-siding with a 'lass” made headlines because it is unusual! Do not allow foreigners, or Holness, to stampede us into bad laws. Do you see them badgering President Donald Trump for a law to ban guns and end the normal one-man, mass shootings? 'Duppy know who fi frighten!'

But, seriously, can we afford a ban? It may be better to have no corporal punishment, but to ban and can't enforce is worse than leaving as is, and use education and therapy to achieve behaviour change. The Global Initiative notes some 50 nations — most in Europe — have bans, so three-quarters of the world have none. Child abuse is rampant, with some 40-plus kids murdered; why not mandate hanging for child killers? Is Cabinet's failure to expand school feeding abuse? A child cannot read, write, or cipher after 10 years in school — abuse? If Global Initiative is correct, Cabinet needs to fund jobs, material, systems to make a ban work. But if it can't keep taxis from breaking the law on public roads can it police 1.5 million parents of 800,000 kids (in 1,000 big schools, 2,600 basic ones) living in remote districts, towns, and dingy ghettos? Worries galore!

But here is a conundrum. Cabinet usually whinges about absent fathers and partying mothers, ignoring their kids; yet now threatens those who stick with their kids and try to do right. Yes, a few make mistakes; who is perfect? Let's use education and therapy to help, as once a law is passed these agencies move on, but we own the costs and consequences. Build the British prison for parents or let them live with hard backs in Tower Street? We need truancy police, investigators, special courts; a whole new bureaucracy; big bucks. Don't go there, Andrew! Parents will no longer kiss or embrace kids as this may be child abuse. If offence is taken, offence was given. The UN cookie-cutter nostrums do not fit us, but the window we had for decades is closing as their focus shifts to Muslim states — big threat, yes, but big markets for trade and as they have lots of abuse against females, good works agencies will thrive. We salt!

Is castor oil child abuse? A mom with small kids all watching TV after 10:00 pm is a child abuser. We also have abandonment, shooting, mutilation, child rape and murder. Flogging is not our most crucial abuse, and agencies should focus a legislative agenda on more feral nations. Here they should fund micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, jobs for single mothers and alternative discipline or behaviour modification protocols. We have dramatic cases, but the real work is with the many well-meaning moms, stressed beyond measure, who use the stick as we have never introduced them to the carrot. They need love, not law. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.

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