UNICEF India Country Rep, Karin Hulshof along with CM of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, Chairperson of NCPCR, Dr Shantha Sinha and Justice Gogoi of Guwahati High Court urge the gathering to “seize the opportunity" to proactively address this issue of Child Rights.
GUWAHATI, India, August 3 2009 – It was an eye opener, remarked the Chief Minister of Assam, Mr Tarun Gogoi, after inaugurating the State Consultation on Discipline with Dignity.
The State Consultation was organized by UNICEF and Guwahati High Court’s Law Research Institute, on 28 July at in the state capital.
The very next day, the CM announced his intention of banning corporal punishment in all schools in Assam. “Corporal punishment is an obsolete method of disciplining. It instills a fear psychosis among children, and is one of the reasons for dropouts,” stated Mr Gogoi, “We will introduce a bill to end corporal punishment in the next Legislative Assembly,” he declared.
News traveled fast. Some hundred kilometers away at the school assembly in Modarkhat SRC Higher Secondary School, students cheered as their teacher shared the good tidings. “Now teachers can’t beat you, so you should discipline yourself.” he suggested to his students.
All about children’s right to learn with dignity
The consultation on Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools in Assam, the first State Consultation to be held anywhere in the country on the issue made a positive start. It ignited a discussion on children’s right to learn with dignity and without fear, and mobilized political will to address corporal punishment in the State.
The inaugural session reverberated a rare solemnity in consonance with the gravity of the issue and the intent of the people who came together to understand and address it. A short film titled ‘Discipline and Punishment’ vividly put into perspective the issue of corporal punishment in schools.
Emphasizing the need to question violence against children and take categorical positions, Dr.Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission for the protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said, “Punishment hurts- children lose self esteem, accept violence in silence and do not inform anyone as they think there may be further victimized in school.” “Violence against children is neither justifiable nor acceptable and corporal punishment in all settings should be banned through legislation, as recommended by the UN Study on Violence against Children,” stated Ms Karin Hulshof, UNICEF Country Representative in her address.
She stated, “We need to hear the ‘It hurts’ call of the child, and this requires the energy of all those in authority. Children need love, respect and a fear- free environment for evolving their capacities.”
Continuing, she stressed that, “We need to think about positive engagement with children based on equality and respect rather than positive discipline.”
“Violence against children is neither justifiable nor acceptable and corporal punishment in all settings should be banned through legislation, as recommended by the UN Study on Violence against Children,” stated Ms Karin Hulshof, UNICEF Country Representative in her address.
Ms Hulshof urged the gathering to “seize the opportunity to proactively address this issue of Children’s Rights.” Sharing the dias with Ms Hulshof was Chief Minister, Chairperson NCPCR, Chief Justice, Mr Chelameshwar and Justice Ranjan Gogoi of the Gauhati High Court.
Corporal Punishment – An unfortunate practice rampant across country
According to the Study on Child Abuse in India by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (2007), Assam has the highest prevalence of corporal punishment in schools with 99.5 per cent children reporting physical abuse and 68.26 per cent reporting emotional abuse through umiliation.
Presenting the findings of the recent interactions with 664 children, parents and teachers across Dhubri, Dibrugarh, Hailakandi and Kamrup districts of Assam, Dr Jeuti Barooah, Director, Law Research Institute, stated that that 69 per cent children and 83 per cent teachers reported corporal punishment in schools.
The consultation had a range of stakeholders representing the government, NGOs, child rights activities, jurists, lawyers, educationists, parents, media and most importantly, children, who deliberated on the magnitude and impact of corporal punishment and the strategies to address the problem.
Key recommendations emerging from the Consultation were presented to Mr PP Verma, Additional Chief Secretary, Planning and Development, Government of Assam.
Mr Verma endorsed the need to urgently review existing Acts, Rules and Administrative Orders that justify corporal punishment and emphasized the need to initiate a Statewide campaign to create an environment where corporal punishment will cease to exist in all settings.
For Partha Pratim, 14, who came all the way from the tea-intensive district of Dibrugarh to participate in the consultation, it was eye-opening to see “big big people like lawyers, teachers and officers, engaged in serious discussion on how physical and emotional abuse impacted on children and society.
“At least some one thinks of children, “he remarked, hopeful, that the consultation will lead to a change in the way parents and