SOCIAL anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle has joined the discussion that corporal punishment in Jamaica must end, saying that the Bible has helped to fuel a misconception that children must be beaten in order for them to turn out successful.
On the contrary, Dr Gayle — as Prime Minister Andrew Holness alluded to on Tuesday in the House of Representatives, while condemning the death of four-year-old Nashawn Brown allegedly after being beaten by his stepfather in Willowdene, St Catherine, on Sunday — thinks that thrashings create physically abusive citizens.
Shaun Dee Bennett, the stepfather of the boy, who allegedly beat the child's mother with a stick and a broom after she tried to intervene, was charged on Tuesday with cruelty to a child, child abuse, unlawful wounding and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He is scheduled to appear in the St Catherine Parish Court on July 27 to answer to the charges. He faces a possible manslaughter charge as well.
“A lot of us have been using biblical misrepresentations to support our actions. I don't think it makes sense for anybody to use the Bible to support the kind of anger being meted out to children,” Gayle told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
Proverbs 13 verse 24, in the New International Version of the Bible, says that whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
According to Gayle, physical abuse cannot be the answer and recommended that parents seek information that would see them exploring options other than centuries-old practices, like corporal punishment, that have not been successful.
“Parents beat children largely because they are misinformed on how to correct them. This has been centuries of misinformation. The second thing is something called control frustration. Parents are being socialised to feel that they desperately need to be in control of children because that is how they were raised. But they need some amount of space to be creative,” he said.
Gayle added that the idea that children turn out better when flogged must not be promoted or entertained. He pointed out that communities with gang activity tend to influence parents to be more abusive because parents fear that children will gravitate to the negative influence of those gangs.
“I witnessed a child being beaten because a gang member squeezed him $100. When you beat them up, they become drawn to the gangs.
“There is an idea that children are going to be great if you beat them up and set them in line and when they turn out to be great, you accept the claim that if you didn't beat them, they wouldn't turn out great. There are misconceptions about the positive side of flogging,” he said.
An appeal came yesterday from chief executive officer of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) Rosalee Gage-Grey to Jamaicans, that if their children's behaviour make them frustrated, the CPFSA is ready to help them.
“We cannot continue to lose our children so carelessly because persons feel frustrated or feel they have no other option. We at the Child Protection and Family Services Agency are here to offer support and we have other agencies of government who offer support as well. If you are having challenges, please seek the help that you need. Our children need to be protected and free from corporal punishment.”
And representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Jamaica Mariko Kagoshima made a call yesterday for citizens to understand that “discipline should not cause any harm to children and it should never be a death sentence” and that corporal punishment should be banned in all settings and non-violent forms of discipline promoted instead.
According to UNICEF, available data indicates that seven out of every 10 Jamaican children under age 15 are subjected to violent punishment at home which would include shouting. UNICEF said that data also showed that children between the ages of two and four are more violently punished than older children and that children in the poorest families are almost five times more likely than the wealthy to suffer severe punishment. UNICEF also pointed out that boys are punished more violently than girls, and more children in the Kingston Metropolitan Area are more violently punished than children in rural areas.
According to the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions 2018, 67 per cent of children, ages zero to eight, are being slapped while 18 per cent were being beaten with an implement. Approximately eight out of every 10 children between the ages of three and five are more likely to be slapped than other children, the survey said.
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