UNICEF renews call for ban on corporal punishment in Jamaica

A child is just a child. Not an adult, but an adult in the making. How then, does a small human being (who has not yet worked things out for him/herself) deserve to be shouted at, beaten, slapped and kicked into submission, in the name of so-called “discipline”? That small child deserves love, nurturing, protection – and understanding.

In this week’s update I commented on the tragic death of four-year-old Nashawn Brown, who was beaten – I would call it torture – for hours allegedly by his stepfather in Willowdene, St. Catherine, for “eating too slowly.” When his mother tried to intervene, the “man” attacked her with the same weapon. Little Nashawn died in hospital.

Tianna Russell, aged 7, died from blunt force trauma on June 28. Her father and stepmother have been charged with child abuse. (Photo: McKoy’s News)

This horrific case was preceded by another domestic tragedy, which has not attracted so much attention. Seven-year-old Tianna Russell was taken to hospital in Linstead, St. Catherine, by her father on June 28, where she subsequently died. After an autopsy was performed it was determined that she died from blunt force trauma. Her father and stepmother have been charged with child abuse.

As talk show host Mark Wignall said on radio this morning, you need to “know your child.” Talk to him/her. Listen to him/her. Keep the communication channels open. Your son or daughter will still behave badly sometimes, but at least you will have a better idea of where it’s coming from, and be able to deal with it more calmly. Families aren’t perfect and family life faces many stresses – but there is a better way.

In their statement released this week, UNICEF Jamaica includes a link to an excellent document“Strictly Positive” – produced more than ten years ago, and prefaced by then Education Minister Andrew Holness (now our Prime Minister). Mr. Holness has spoken out very strongly against corporal punishment – which seems to be on the wane in our schools. But how does one legislate against the violence committed in our own homes (which has probably worsened in the claustrophobic atmosphere created by COVID restrictions, and the deprivation that has accompanied them?) Because corporal punishment is violence.

Here’s an opportunity for film makers from the Spotlight Initiative.

Here’s a good read on the UNICEF blog. And here is a quote from a young father who is involved in the Spotlight Initiative, an ongoing anti-domestic violence program funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in Jamaica.

Children are not only receivers in the communication process. They must be listened to and given answers in a manner that they are able to understand properly. I no longer hold the view that they must be seen and not heard. They have a voice too!

Here is UNICEF’s statement:

KINGSTON, 21 July, 2021 – Saddened by the tragic news of the death of a four-year-old boy due to a severe beating, UNICEF is reiterating its call for the Government of Jamaica to ban the use of corporal punishment in all settings and to promote non-violent forms of discipline.

Available data speaks clearly to the fact that corporal punishment is prevalent throughout Jamaica. Findings from the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2011 indicate that seven out of 10 Jamaican children under age 15 are subjected to violent punishment at home. The term “violent punishment” includes psychological aggression (shouting etc.) and physical punishment.

MICS data also shows that children between the tender ages of two and four are more violently punished than older children. Children in the poorest families are almost five times as likely than those in the wealthiest to suffer severe physical punishment. More boys are violently punished than girls, and more children in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) are 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, and 18 per cent beaten with an implement. In this age cohort, children between the ages of three and five are more likely to be slapped – approximately 8 out of 10.

“Discipline is necessary for children, but there are non-violent ways to raise respectful, well-behaved children, says Mariko Kagoshima, UNICEF Jamaica Representative. “Discipline should not cause any harm to children and it should never be a death sentence.”

UNICEF is urging the Government to move decisively to outlaw corporal punishment in schools and homes. UNICEF remains committed to supporting initiatives that help parents and caregivers to learn positive, non-violent ways to communicate with and discipline their young children.

UNICEF is also calling on all Jamaicans to do everything within their power to protect every child’s right to be free of violence in all forms.

Jamaican children being children. (Photo: UNICEF Jamaica)

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