Holness wants end to corporal punishment, calls for debate

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

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PARLIAMENT will soon have to consider outlawing corporal punishment in Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness indicated yesterday.

Holness, in a statement to the House of Representatives on the pinning of Members of Parliament (MPs) with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lapel pins at Gordon House, reiterated his commitment to not only banning corporal punishment in schools, but generally in society, so it can no longer be an option.

He told his colleagues in the House that he could not make his statement on the SDGs pin without highlighting what he described as “the alarming findings” of the recently launched UNICEF report, “A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents”.

Holness noted that the report showed a large number of Jamaican children dying violently, or are regularly subjected to sexual violence and violent discipline in their homes, schools and communities.

The prime minister specifically noted the section which stated that eight in 10 children in the two-to-14 age group in Jamaica experience violence as a form of discipline.

He said that while highlighting the importance of the SDGs, the country must reflect on their all-encompassing influence in making the world a better place for children.

“I must reiterate the commitment that I have in this House to ban corporal punishment in all government institutions,” he said.

He paid special attention to goal three of the SDGs, which targets good health and well-being.

“I don't know how corporal punishment aligns with that goal of good health and well-being. I really don't know,” the prime minister commented.

He said that, although he did not expect a consensus across the aisle of the House, or even a consensus within the two political parties represented in the chamber, on banning corporal punishment totally in the country, he wished to declare that he is totally against corporal punishment and that he believes that the time has come for the Parliament to have a debate on the issue.

“And finally declare corporal punishment at an end, both within public institutions and as a means of discipline available to parents,” he added.

“I think it would be a forward-leaning step in making a stance against violence, generally, and it would send a powerful message about the State respecting the inviolability of the person, whether or not that person is a child or an adult,” he stated.

MPs attending yesterday's sitting of the House of Representatives were pinned with the SDGs lapel pins by student leaders, some of whom are in United Nations clubs in their schools.

— See related story on Page 16

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